Just like its previous three matches, Duke’s match against Louisville Saturday ended up with a 7-0 on the scoreboard for another Blue Devil sweep.
This time, however, that scoreboard was outside, as No. 10 Duke competed in its first outdoor competition of the season.
With the trek from Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center out to Ambler Stadium, Saturday was a sign that spring tennis truly is underway. And right on cue, the Blue Devils are hitting their stride as a team as well.
“Everyone’s playing with confidence,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “Everyone’s believing in themselves but believing in their teammates as well and trusting that their teammates are putting in the same effort that they are. I think that we’re in a good position, and it’s a position that we’ve earned and that we’re trying to capitalize on.”
Duke’s confidence and mindset were on clear display against the Cardinals. The Blue Devils (7-1, 2-0 in the ACC) came ready to play right from the start, with a quick 6-2 doubles win from the duo of Kelly Chen and Georgia Drummy on Court 3. Not to be outdone, Meible Chi and Margaryta Bilokin on Court 1 as well as Chloe Beck and Karolina Berankova on Court 2 captured wins of their own in the doubles portion of the day, securing the first point for the Blue Devils.
From that point forward, the team never looked back, with straight-set singles victories from Beck and Chen on Courts 2 and 3, respectively, giving the Blue Devils a 3-0 lead. Then, Bilokin clinched the win for the team in another straight-set victory on Court 4.
Bilokin’s win also marked her 50th career singles victory and improved her singles record to 10-2 on the season.
On Court 6, Berankova won the first set 6-2, but trailed 5-2 in the second set. Unfazed by the deficit, the Czech Republic native proceeded to rattle off five straight games to win the set 7-5 and secure another point for Duke. Finally, after dropping their first sets, Drummy and Chi stormed back to win their second sets and tiebreakers on Courts 1 and 5, respectively, to complete the Blue Devils sweep of Louisville (5-4, 2-2)
While the individual matches are certainly important, Ashworth and the Blue Devils are also focusing on the broader tasks of the season. Playing outdoor tennis poses new challenges for the team, challenges Duke must get used to if it hopes to achieve its goals.
“It was great to get outdoors,” Ashworth said. “We really needed to do that…. Outdoor tennis is definitely a little bit different. It’s a little more taxing, a little more physical—the points are a little bit longer. We had to get out and play in that setting as fast as we possibly could.”
The start of outdoor tennis is a sign that tough matches lie ahead, and that’s exactly what the Blue Devils have to prepare for this coming week, as they face off against No. 2 Florida State Saturday before another difficult opponent in Miami the next day.
“Every opportunity we have to play in practice we’ve really valued and we’ve got to keep doing that this week,” Ashworth said. “We’re in a good place.”
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As the weather continues to heat up, so too does the tennis season. Time will tell if the Blue Devils can stay ahead of the curve and continue to find victories on the road to May.