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'A rock in our program': Kelly Chen secures 100th career win as Duke women's tennis sweeps VCU

Chen's been named an ITA All-American each of the past three seasons.
Chen's been named an ITA All-American each of the past three seasons.

No. 10 Duke kept the momentum going with a 7-0 victory against VCU Wednesday afternoon.

The win marked the second consecutive sweep for the Blue Devils (5-1), but much of the focus centered on Court 1, where star senior Kelly Chen faced off against the Rams’ Paola Diaz Delgado. Chen entered the match with a 99-26 record, hoping to break through into triple digits, a feat that only 25 Duke women’s tennis players have achieved in school history. 

While head coach Jamie Ashworth was more focused on the win itself , he knows better than anyone else what Chen has meant for the program.

“[Chen] has been a rock in our program for the last three years and will continue to be that way,” Ashworth said. “We’ve leaned on her for a lot of big points in big matches, and she’s handled it really well. One of the best things about Kelly is that she plays her best when her best is needed.”

Chen, ranked as the No. 8 singles player in the country this season, has already established herself as a career great for the Blue Devils. And on Wednesday, she secured the 100th win to further back that reputation up.

After a 6-1 doubles win with redshirt sophomore Georgia Drummy to start the day, Chen began her singles match on the right foot, winning a few early games and cruising to a 6-3 first set victory. Perhaps dealing with the nerves of being on the threshold of history, however, Chen fell behind 1-2 in the early stages of the second set.

Not unfamiliar with the ups and downs of college tennis, Chen remained unfazed, fighting back to secure a 6-4 victory and that coveted 100th singles win. 

“It means a lot,” Chen said. “It means I put in all the work I needed to. Obviously there’s more work to do in the future matches, but so far I’m just really happy that I finally got my 100th win.”

The milestone adds to an already long list of accomplishments for Chen. She’s been an ITA All-America selection three straight years, earning second-team All-ACC honors in both 2018 and 2019. Perhaps her greatest feat came to conclude the 2019 season, when Chen upset two top-10 ranked opponents en route to becoming the fifth Blue Devil ever to make the semifinals of the NCAA Singles Championship.

Playing right near the top of Duke’s lineup for the vast majority of her career, Chen has rarely faced easy opponents. In fact, 41 of her 100 singles wins have come against ranked players, a stat that makes her accomplishment all the more impressive. As much as Chen enjoyed Wednesday’s win, though, she’s already looking ahead to add even more to her resume. 

“I just wanted to prove to myself that I could be one of the best in college tennis,” Chen said. “I think I’ve put in the hard work so far and I’m ready to continue my senior year.”

Duke’s schedule really starts to heat up this weekend as ACC play begins, with the Blue Devils taking on No. 11 Virginia Friday and No. 45 Virginia Tech Sunday.


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