With the ITA National Team Indoor Championships just around the corner, the Blue Devils hope to stay healthy and prepare for their big weekend with a match against Furman.
After sweeping two teams in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, No. 10 Duke will put its undefeated record on the line when it squares off with the Lady Paladins at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center Saturday at 11 a.m.
“The expectations are that Furman is going to play a great match,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “We have to be ready for that as soon as we step on the court.”
Duke (3-0) began its slate of dual matches nearly three weeks ago and competed against the nation's best at the Freeman Memorial in Las Vegas, but Furman (1-0) played its first dual match of the season Thursday, outlasting East Tennessee State 4-3.
The last time Duke faced Furman was in the Fab Four Invitational in September. Seniors Hanna Mar and Marianne Jodoin both competed against Furman players in the tournament and won their matches handily.
Duke is adjusting to the ITA's new experimental format for matches. Aiming to reduce the length of matches, doubles teams now play just one. Singles matches are two out of three sets without ad scoring and a 10-point tiebreaker in lieu of a third set. This trial format will last until the end of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
“We are trying to have a really positive attitude and come out with a lot of energy because they changed the format, so matches can go a lot quicker,” sophomore Beatrice Capra said. “It is really important to come out with high energy right away.”
Although Furman is not a top-ranked team, Duke aims to continue its high-energy and focused play this weekend in preparation for the ITA National Team Indoors next week.
“We don’t want to get in a situation where we are an on and off switch,” Ashworth said. “We want to compete and perform at a high level every time we play and so this is an opportunity to improve that and work on that.”
One of the primary areas Duke looks to improve upon this weekend is in its doubles play. The Blue Devils nearly dropped their first doubles match of the season last weekend against Columbia before recovering to capture the doubles point. Doubles matches are the first ones to play, and the momentum of the match as a whole can be gained or lost with the doubles play.
“If we come out right from the start and in the first games whether we are serving or returning make people play and make good decisions then the rest of that takes care of itself,” Ashworth said. “But it definitely starts with our doubles play.”
With all their players back from injuries and suspensions, the Blue Devils now has a full roster and are able to rest players and mix up their lineup.
“It is great to have the flexibility and it is great to have options,” Ashworth said. “If someone is banged up a little bit, giving them a chance to sit is a whole different philosophy.”