The men’s and women’s tennis teams will kick off their preseason with the third annual Fab Four Invitational in Cary, N.C., hoping to set the tone for the coming season.
This fall tournament hosts schools from various conferences, who come with their top four players to win six possible titles in both doubles and singles. This tournament gives Duke the chance to see competitive teams and individuals that they may not face in the regular season.
“We play these tournaments... to get back in match shape and work on individual rankings, which affect what they do all year [and] work on some doubles stuff, trying some new teams and different teams,” women’s head coach Jaime Ashworth said. “But the number one thing is getting on the court and getting matches in a competitive situation.”
This year’s men’s squad has added four freshmen to its roster, including the No. 1 ITA newcomer, Michael Redlicki and No. 2 Bruno Semenzato. Semenzato, however, is not eligible to compete until the spring. The other two freshmen, Josh Levine and Daniel McCall, will both play singles as well as pair up as a doubles team this weekend. The lone senior on the team, Henrique Cunha, sits at No. 1 in the preseason rankings, and is followed by No. 19 Chris Mengel.
“It does not affect how I am going to play my game,” Cunha said. “Number one is more responsibility. Obviously everyone wants to beat the number one guy, and I am the favorite in pretty much every match, and it’s a nice pressure to have. But, I want to keep improving, and I think I have a lot of room for improvement.”
For doubles, this tournament will be a test for future matches.
“We are trying new combinations with this tournament to see how they gel together right off the bat,” men’s head coach Ramsey Smith said.
Sophomore Jason Tahir and Redlicki will team up after winning a tournament in the summer together. Also matched up are the lefty duo Cunha and Hemmeler, ranked at No. 16, as well as the No. 15 pairing of juniors Fred Saba and Mengel.
Unlike the men, the women enter this season with only one new addition—Marianne Jodoin, a junior transfer from Fresno State. The Blue Devils only graduated one senior from the team that made a run to the national semifinals last season. Seven Duke players also earned pre-season rankings. Beatrice Capra leads the pack at No. 2, giving the team confidence and a baseline from which to build.
After struggling in doubles last season, especially in the NCAA tournament, the women hope to improve starting this weekend. In the preseason the Blue Devils have three strong tandems ranked nationally in the top 60. Capra and Hannah Mar are slated at No. 19, Mary Clayton and Jodoin at No. 27 and Annie Mulholland and Ester Goldfeld at No. 43.
“My goals are to take advantage of the first tournament of the fall, and place myself in position for All-Americans, which is coming up shortly,” senior Mary Clayton said. “I want to do the best I can for the team, and obviously individually as well.”