As a freshman on the Duke women’s tennis team, Maria Mateas arrived on campus with a desire to improve her tennis prowess. But the fact that she is even in college is unique. She is currently ranked WTA No. 299 and topped out her junior ranking at 26 almost three years ago. She is also the ninth highest ranked women’s tennis player with ties to college and the only one current enrolled. 

Most players with professional success and a professional singles title would jump right into playing professionally full time and skip college. 

But Mateas saw the value in a collegiate experience and decided to improve her game with one of the top teams in the county. The Blue Devil coaching staff—led by head coach Jamie Ashworth and associate head coach Matt Manasse—is also one of the top units in country and has coached numerous top-100 players, which will only benefit Mateas’ growth. 

Between playing in professional tournaments this fall, Mateas, in her college debut, advanced to the finals of the ITA All-American Championships in October after she knocked off two top-16 opponents. Mateas hopes to be ranked professionally in the top 10 in coming years but does not have an exact timetable to make that jump.

Before she steps foot onto the professional circuit for good, Mateas will look to lead her team atop the singles lineup to its first national championship since 2009. Ashworth’s team that season included Mallory Cecil, a freshman who went on to win the NCAA Individual Singles Championship. 

Editor's note: This profile is part of our annual initiative called The Chron15. We are highlighting 15 people and groups who are defining what it means to be at Duke this year. Read about the project and more of our selections.