After struggling at times earlier in the season on the doubles side, the Blue Devils returned to their championship-caliber play this weekend.
Duke returned to ACC play this weekend with a pair of sweeps to position itself in second place behind North Carolina. The Blue Devils returned home after a two-match hiatus and defeated No. 15 Wake Forest Friday evening and Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon.
Duke has seemed to settle in with its revised doubles lineup and Friday’s top-15 matchup displayed a convincing performance against the fourth highest ranked ACC team.
The senior-sophomore duo of Ellyse Hamlin and Kelly Chen jumped out to a quick start and defeated Wake Forest’s No. 38 duo of Chandler Carter and Emma Davis 6-1 on the top court inside the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center.
On Court 2, the No. 34 pair of senior Kaitlyn McCarthy and junior Meible Chi won their match 6-4 and the freshman tandem of No. 80 Maria Mateas and Margaryta Bilokin left their match unfinished at 4-4.
“I thought we got off to a good start,” head coach Jamie Ashworth told GoDuke.com Friday. “We finished points and the biggest thing for me is the personalities on the court. The personalities that we have playing together are ones that mesh but also lift them up. If someone is down or having a tough time, the other one can pick them up.”
On the singles side, Hamlin did not give up a singles game in ether set to earn the 6-0, 6-0 victory in the fourth singles position. McCarthy gave up only three more games than her classmate for a 6-2, 6-1 win one court down.
With the 3-0 match lead against the Demon Deacons (15-3, 5-1), No. 19 Chi clinched the home dual match with a 6-2, 6-4 victory.
After the match had been decided, No. 22 Chen knocked off No. 46 Davis 6-3, 6-4. No. 18 Mateas, on Court 2, went down 1-4 in the opening set before taking six of the final seven games to win the set 7-5. After the first set victory, Mateas won the second frame 6-2.
In order to close out the sweep, Bilkoin went the distance to earn the only three-set match of the night. After winning the first set 6-2, Wake Forest’s Carter responded by taking the second set 7-4 in a tiebreaker.
In the deciding 10-point super tiebreaker, Bilokin won 10-7 to finish out the team’s fourth conference victory on the season.
“I thought it was the most complete match we’ve played all year. Wake is a good top-20 team and it’s really the first time all year we’ve come out and beaten a team off the court,” Ashworth said Friday.
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After a day of rest, Duke (13-2, 5-1 in the ACC) took the court Sunday hoping to close out the quick two-game homestead unscathed against Pittsburgh (4-10, 0-7).
Outside at the Ambler Tennis Center for the first time this spring, Duke got out to 4-0 starts on all three doubles courts.
On Court 1, Hamlin and Chen did not give up a game and earned the 6-0 win. A few minutes later, McCarthy and sophomore Ema Lazic in the third doubles slot. This matchup served as Lazic’s first doubles match for the Blue Devils since September, when she went 2-1 alongside McCarthy.
Mateas and Bilokin were five points away from taking their doubles match when McCarthy and Lazic clinched the doubles point. They were up 4-1, 40-0.
The six singles matches on the sunny afternoon followed the same script as the doubles side. McCarthy won her first set 6-0 while Mateas, Chen and Bilokin walked away from their opening frames having given up only one game apiece.
Hamlin and sophomore Hannah Zhao, in her first ACC singles match on the season, won their first sets 6-3 and 6-2, respectively. Chi sat out Sunday’s match.
“From the start of the year, we didn’t change our lineup a lot at the start. But lately, Ellyse played ahead of Kaitlyn on Friday and again today. We have some people that can play different places,” Ashworth said. “Also, we don’t want other teams to be able to matchup against us and know who’s going to play at every spot.”
The race to be the first Blue Devils off the courts was even four games into the second set. McCarthy and Bilokin each started the fifth game of the set within a minute of each other.
Shortly after, Chen broke her opponents serve to go up 4-1. Next, Hamlin won her service game to take a commanding 4-0 advantage.
McCarthy made her first serve on match point and after a few rallies from the baseline, McCarthy hit a crosscourt forehand and her opponent missed the reciprocal forehand in the net to close out the 6-0, 6-0 victory.
Hamlin’s match finished less than a minute later as she won 6-3, 6-0 in the third singles slot.
Chen’s opponent on Court 2 missed her shot wide as the Blue Devil sophomore won the match 6-1, 6-2 and clinched the match victory for her team as well. Bilokin then dropped the next two games before she closed out the 6-1, 6-2 victory on court five.
Mateas opened the first game of the second set with a strong volley to win the deuce point and go up 1-0. She won the second game on a deciding point as well. After her third deuce victory in a row to open the set, Mateas broke Pittsburgh’s Luisa Varon without giving up a point. The freshman closed out the match with a pair deuce point wins to win 6-1, 6-0.
“Anytime we’re in those pressure, 3-all points, we don’t want to sit back and wait for people to miss,” Ashworth said. “I told them before the start of the singles, ‘Let’s be the ones in control and play our way, whether it’s 2-0 in the first or deuce point at 4-all in the third set, we want to be the ones controlling the tempo.’”
For the second match in a row, the sweep came down to court six. Zhao, after taking the first set 6-2, evened the match at 3-all after the other five courts concluded.
The San Diego, Calif., native broke her opponent’s serve to take a 4-3 lead. She then missed a forehand into the net to tie the set again at 4-4. On deuce and match point, Zhao hit a forehand to Pittsburgh’s Natsumi Okamoto feet as she approached the net.
“It was the first time in a long time where we’ve had a contribution from everyone on our team,” Ashworth said. “Ema got an opportunity today and took advantage of it and Hannah as well,” Ashworth said. “It was a full team effort. We needed a match like this.”
The Blue Devils will return to the hardcourts Friday on the road in Louisville, Ky., at the Bass-Rudd Tennis Center. The Cardinals swept Pittsburgh last month and lost to North Carolina 0-4 two weeks ago. Duke defeated Louisville 6-1 last season on the last day of March.
“We just have to make sure we stay sharp and stay clean and not be overly confident that we won two matches 7-0,” Ashworth said about the upcoming practices.