The Blue Devils hope to have some tennis Crazies back in action this weekend to make Sheffield Tennis Center rattle like it did last Saturday in their decisive win over William & Mary.
Duke (1-0) will hit the hard court against Wisconsin (0-0) in the ITA Kickoff Tournament and then play either College of Charleston or Wyoming Sunday.
Blue Devil head coach Jamie Ashworth praised last week’s attendance at the match, which he said goes hand in hand with the energy his players bring to the court.
“We have worked hard the last couple of years to make this one of the toughest environments in the country to play in and a lot of that comes from the energy we bring,” Ashworth said. “If we bring the energy, the crowd will have the energy. The past couple years we have had a really good fan base.”
The Blue Devils are currently ranked No. 3 in the nation according to the ITA and NCAA polls. Only Florida and UCLA rank above Duke. But the Blue Devils, who won the NCAA Championship in 2009, are not unfamiliar with the pressures and expectations that come with being ranked so highly.
They know what it feels like to be the team to beat.
“I don’t think we fear [the] pressure [of being atop the rankings]. I think we embrace that,” Ashworth said. “We want to get the best from everyone we play. I think for all the teams we play, we are someone they circle on their schedule. It’s a good opportunity for them. If we didn’t have that challenge [of being the one to beat], I don’t think we would have the success that we do.”
The Blue Devils will undoubtedly get the best efforts of the Badgers this weekend seeing that the match marks Wisconsin’s first of the season. They will likely be enthusiastic and fresh out of the gate.
Duke’s Mary Clayton has to the chance to join the 100-win club with a singles win this weekend. The team’s lone senior will be one of only 21 Blue Devils to own 100 career singles victories. Ashworth commended Clayton on her accomplishment and the quickness with which she has come to it.
“[Mary] has emerged as a great leader for us,” Ashworth said. “She has reached this hundred mark fairly quickly [since she started college in January and missed a semester of matches]. As a player and a competitor, she has grown a lot since her freshman year. She had some good wins this fall… and she is getting better. A lot of seniors, by the time they are in their senior year, they are looking forward to what they are doing next year. [Mary] has set the tone for everyone to follow.”
Clayton teamed up with Ester Goldfeld to beat the No. 3 doubles team in the nation and the duo is 3-0 so far on the year when playing together. Ashworth was encouraged by the tandem’s play last weekend.
“They beat [the No. 3 ranked team in the nation from William & Mary] last year,” Ashworth said. “We had some good scouting reports on them. Mary and Ester played really smart. They stuck with their game plan. They didn’t give up a lot of free points. Hopefully if we keep them together, which right now we are, they will continue to play that disciplined, great tennis.”