Newcomers make an impact in No. 6 Duke women's tennis' season-opening sweep

Karolina Berankova enters the season ranked as the No. 6 freshman in the country by the ITA.
Karolina Berankova enters the season ranked as the No. 6 freshman in the country by the ITA.

Duke's 2021 campaign started just as its 2020 season did: a 7-0 victory.

However, that doesn't mean everything was the same.

While the sixth-ranked Blue Devils' dominating sweep of Charlotte Thursday afternoon looked familiar, two new faces on the court did not, as freshman Karolina Berankova and redshirt sophomore Georgia Drummy made their Duke dual meet debuts.

Berankova, who the ITA ranked as the No. 6 freshman entering this season, joined the team this semester following an extensive junior career on the international circuit. The Prague, Czech Republic native had only been at Duke for about a week prior to Thursday's match, but her ability to quickly adapt has impressed head coach Jamie Ashworth.

"I commend these kids [that] come in January from a different country," Ashworth said. "They get thrown into this—[Berankova has] played for herself her whole life and now playing for a team, it's just a little bit [of a] different kind of pressure."

Berankova partnered with sophomore Chloe Beck on Court 1 for doubles Thursday. The duo impressed at the Duke Winter Classic from Jan. 10-12—including a win against N.C. State's Alana Smith and Anna Rogers, the second-ranked doubles pair in the country last season—but struggled a bit out of the gates against Charlotte, falling down 2-0 early to Margaux Maquet and Jenna Dean.

But Berankova and Beck quickly bounced back to win 6-3, finding their groove through the remainder of the set.

In singles, Berankova competed on Court 6 against Dean and once again had to fight early, being forced into a tiebreaker in the first set. She ended up winning the tiebreaker 11-9, and cruised to a 6-1 victory in the second set to keep Duke's sweep intact.

"[Berankova] did a good job competing and fighting back," Ashworth said. "She was on the doubles court with Chloe, who's arguably one of the best doubles players in the country, and Chloe did a great job from a leadership standpoint out there."

Drummy, a transfer from Vanderbilt who enters the season as the No. 28 singles player in the country, also competed in both singles and doubles Thursday. She didn't have too much trouble with the 49ers, winning 6-0 alongside senior Kelly Chen on Court 3 in doubles and then defeating Charlotte's Kaavya Sawhney 6-1, 6-2 on Court 3 in singles.

Berankova and Drummy come from similar tennis backgrounds, both of them playing on the international circuit prior to attending college—Drummy hails from Dublin, Ireland—and even competing in Europe together as a doubles pair. However, their roads to Durham were a bit different.

Ashworth had actually recruited Drummy as a junior player, and was "disappointed" when she chose to attend Vanderbilt over the Blue Devils initially.

Drummy saw quick success in Nashville, rising to the No. 1 singles spot with the Commodores and earning All-SEC Second Team honors as a freshman in 2019. However, she entered the transfer portal following the abrupt stoppage of the 2020 campaign, and Ashworth "jumped on it."

"We were very lucky that when [Drummy] decided to transfer that she wanted to come here," Ashworth said. "And that we didn't burn any bridges in the recruiting process originally out of high school."

Regarding Berankova's recruitment, Ashworth said he was impressed by her commitment to an education and the need to "challenge herself academically as well as athletically." 

And while Berankova visited a multitude of schools that could accomplish those goals—including Vanderbilt—she ultimately chose to attend Duke, joining on as the team's lone freshman for the 2021 campaign.

It's rare that two newcomers can make an impact on a team looking to make a Final Four for the third straight full season. But Berankova and Drummy aren't ordinary newcomers, with Thursday's match showing just a glimpse of what they can bring to the table for this year's Blue Devil squad.


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