Duke is back in action with an array of matches set to be played starting this Saturday. Coming off quarterfinal exits last weekend, senior Samantha Harris and junior Kaitlyn McCarthy look to bounce back as the Blue Devils travel to take on some of the top-ranked women in the nation.
Duke will travel cross country to the Riviera Tennis Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., to compete in the 2017 ITA Women's All-American Championships. Five Blue Devils will represent Duke in the singles and doubles events. Sophomore No. 20 Meible Chi currently stands as the No. 1 alternate for the main draw singles. In most other tournaments, Chi would comfortably sit within the main draw. However, with so many quality players taking part in this ITA All-American Championship, Chi will be forced to make her way through the qualifying along with her teammates, senior No. 54 Samantha Harris and junior Kaitlyn McCarthy.
“It’s a big gauge. It gives us a chance to say, ‘Well I know this girl played [No.] 2 [singles] for this school last year or something like that,’” Blue Devil head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “But it’s a great opportunity for that and to get a feeling of, ‘Okay, I know this girl played high for this school and we can win there,’ but it’s not something we talk about really. It’s just, let’s do what we need to do and let the results take care of themselves.”
Following singles titles for No. 57 McCarthy and fellow junior Ellyse Hamlin at the Duke James Bonk Invitational, the junior classmates look to continue their strong play in singles as well as doubles, where they sit as the No. 25 pair in the nation. The Blue Devil tandem will try to qualify for the main draw in singles separately, then team up to take on the doubles main draw.
Last year at this event, Chi began her quest for the main singles draw in the pre-qualifying tournament, where she successfully won three matches in order to move on. But her three-set loss eliminated the then-freshman in the second round of qualifying. Also in last year’s tournament, then-sophomore Hamlin won one match in the pre-qualifying division before falling in two sets. Although originally seeded seventh in the qualifying draw, McCarthy fell in the second round in a close two-set match to eventual quarterfinalist Mayar Sherif Ahmed of Pepperdine.
On the doubles side last fall, the two Blue Devil pairings were eliminated in the qualifying draw. Hamlin and Chi fell 8-5 to a team from Denver in the first round, and McCarthy and recent graduate Chalena Scholl were defeated 8-3 in the second round to the quarterfinalist team from Southern California.
The entire Blue Devil team regrouped in the last two weeks, stressing the importance of limiting its mental errors.
“One of the biggest things is being more disciplined in our matches. We’ve talked a lot about cutting down our mental errors and if we are going to make errors, have them be physical errors,” Ashworth said. “The best players in the world make physical errors. They go for a shot. It’s the right shot, they just miss it. Those are the kind of errors that we’re looking for when we make errors.
"They’re more physical side than mental, which is obviously bad decision making, bad shot selection. So, it’s something that we’ve been working on with our singles and our doubles and hopefully we can clean that up and play smart, play good tennis. It’s a good opportunity for us to play some good tennis.”
Rounding out the doubles play is the No. 60 team of Harris and freshman Kelly Chen looking to join the Duke juniors in the main draw of doubles, as they will begin their quest in the qualifying doubles draw.
Trying to progress into the main singles draw, the journey will be difficult for Hamlin and Chen. The duo will kick off play in the pre-qualifying tournament, looking to join Chi, Harris and McCarthy in the qualifying draw.
The pre-qualifying tournament will kick off play Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. Next, the qualifying draw will be sorted out Oct. 3 and Oct. 4. Finally, the main draw of both the singles and doubles tournament will transpire from Oct. 5 through Oct. 8.
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“We can’t judge everything on wins and losses. With matchups and draws and stuff, I just want them to play the best that they can play and improve on where we were for Sam [Harris] and Kaitlyn [McCarthy] last week and the others two weeks ago. And I think we will do that,” Ashworth said. “Our doubles will be better. I think we’ll be a little bit cleaner. They have some matches under their belt.”