Hoping to improve from last week’s performance at the ITA All-Americans, Duke continues its fall season this weekend, sending four players to the Wake Forest Invitational.
Freshman T.J. Pura, sophomores Daniel McCall and Josh Levine, and junior Cale Hammond will compete against players from top schools around the country at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex in Winston-Salem, N.C. The tournament features a compass draw, meaning each player will play at least four matches.
At the Wake Forest Invitational, the Blue Devils are looking to rebound from a lackluster showing at the ITA All-Americans last week.
“We need to play better. It’s not necessarily result oriented, but we need to perform better as a team," head coach Ramsey Smith said. "We need to make some adjustments and just compete and play better in the tournaments."
A key issue Smith is trying to resolve is the team beating itself with foolish errors.
“I feel like there’s been to many times this fall where we’ve beaten ourselves, which shouldn’t happen and it’s unacceptable,” Smith said. “It’s okay to lose, but you can’t beat yourself.”
Luckily for Duke, there are still lots of opportunities to turn around their performance before the spring, starting with this weekend.
“We’re behind where we want to be in terms of performance overall as a team,” Smith said. “The good news is that we’re less than halfway through the fall and we have some really good opportunities to get better. I’m expecting some breakthrough performances and that’s what the fall is about.”
The team has been working hard in practice this week to try to improve before the weekend.
The four players for the Blue Devils saw only limited action during the All-Americans, so Smith is sending them to Wake Forest in hopes of gaining experience. None of Duke's four participants reached the main draw at the ITA Championships, and the quartet is among the team's less-experienced players
“It’s really based on getting people matches,” Smith said “All players played in the pre-qualifiers of the All-Americans but didn’t get as many matches as we were hoping for so that’s why we have those guys playing.”
Smith not only wants them to gain experience, but also wants them to seize the opportunity of playing in the tournament to set themselves up for the spring. All four players were outside of the top six last season, but are competing to make it into the top six for the upcoming spring season.
“They have an opportunity to fight through some matches, go deep in a tournament, and get nationally ranked and establish themselves as a big part of our lineup,” Smith said.
The team is eager to compete this weekend and put last week behind them.
“I just hope as a team we play our best tennis and compete our butts off,” Pura said. “If we get a couple wins that’d be awesome. It’s a great opportunity for us.”
Despite the players being in the lower half of the team’s lineup, Smith still has high hopes for the tournament.
“We have high expectations for them and we know they level they can play at,” Smith said. “All four of these guys can win this tournament, but I’m looking for them to give themselves that opportunity.”