Following a strong showing last week at the Fab Four Invitational, the Blue Devils hope their momentum will carry them through against some of the nation’s top talent.
Duke heads to Pacific Palisades, Calif. for the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships, slated to begin on Saturday with pre-qualifying singles and doubles. Main draw action will begin Oct. 4 at the Riviera Tennis Club, where the team looks to build both individual and team confidence in a high-profile national tournament.
Led by senior captain Mary Clayton, the Blue Devils appear to be well on their way to strong individual and team performances. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native was named captain in the spring of her junior year and helped the Blue Devils to an ACC Championship win against rival North Carolina last April.
“I feel old,” Clayton said. “I really appreciate the role because I feel responsible for the girls, so it keeps me in line. It keeps me being positive and wanting to be a good example for them.”
As the only senior on the team, Clayton, the 44th-ranked singles player in the nation by the ITA, is looked to as a strong support system for the girls.
“We made her captain of this team last spring heading into this year and she’s taken that leadership role and run with it,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “It’s a big responsibility for one person to have, but she’s done a great job with everything we’ve asked of her.”
The Riviera All-American Championships, the first of three college grand-slam events during the year, presents the Blue Devils with a crucial opportunity to not only showcase their individual talent but also to size up future competition.
“We have more people in the rankings right now than any other team, and I think we have to back that up,” Ashworth said. “Mentally, it’s a big thing to have people do well out there.”
After clinching the 2012 ACC title, the Blue Devils have a reputation to uphold as they prepare themselves to face top-ranked opponents from across the nation.
“Tournaments like this give us an opportunity to see what other teams have,” Ashworth said. “A lot of the west coast schools we won’t get a chance to see other than this event.”
With the help of strong players like sophomore Beatrice Capra and junior Hanna Mar, the team can look forward to competitive match play. Capra and Mar are slated to play as a pair in the main doubles draw of the tournament this year.
“I love playing with Hanna. She’s so aggressive at the net and really spontaneous on the court,” Capra said. “We got to play once last year and we did really well so I think we’ll do well again this year.”
Capra, the Blue Devils’ No. 2 singles player, is currently out of the tournament’s main singles draw with a knee injury and will only have the opportunity to play doubles. Both players and coaches alike believe that this combination will be a powerful pairing for the Blue Devils.