The Blue Devils entered Friday having lost their last five matches to their Tobacco Road rivals. That streak has now been extended to six.
No. 9 Duke had a disappointing performance against its down-the-road rival No. 1 North Carolina, falling to the Tar Heels 6-1 at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center in Chapel Hill.
The Blue Devils’ afternoon started off with tough defeats in the doubles matches. In the first finish of the day, senior duo Kelly Chen and Hannah Zhao lost to North Carolina’s Reilly Tran and Alle Sanford 6-2. And not long after, Meible Chi and Margaryta Bilokin fell 6-1 to Sara Daavettila and Cameron Morra, giving the Tar Heels the doubles point.
With sophomore Georgia Drummy sidelined due to an ankle injury, Zhao made her first appearance in ACC play this season, losing in singles to Tran—who ranked as high as the No. 3 recruit in the Class of 2020—6-0, 6-0. Bilokin then fell to Makenna Jones 6-1, 6-2, while Chi’s nine-match win streak was snapped with a 6-4, 6-2 defeat to Fiona Crawley—the No. 1 ranked recruit in the Class of 2020—in the following match.
Berankova then lost 6-1, 6-4 to seal the victory for the Tar Heels and end any chance Duke (10-3, 5-2 in the ACC) had at a comeback.
“[North Carolina] does a good job of striking first…they knocked us back a little bit and we weren’t able to recover,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “They were better right from the start.”
North Carolina (17-0, 7-0) entered and exited this match undefeated, and present a rare type of opponent for a team as consistently strong as the Blue Devils.
“There’s not a lot of opportunities to play where we’re not supposed to win on paper,” Ashworth said.
Although Duke entered as the underdog, that doesn’t mean it went down without a fight.
In the final match of the day, sophomore Chloe Beck took down Morra—the No. 6 ranked singles player in the country—for her highest singles victory and second top-10 win of the season. Despite losing the first set, Beck came from behind to force a final tiebreaker set, which she ultimately won 12-10.
“I’m proud of myself for getting a win for the team even after we lost, but I really am out there playing for my team, so it hurts that we lost as a team,” Beck said.
Tennis, often considered only on a professional level, is typically thought of as an individual sport. However, this season’s Blue Devils are an example of how much of a team sport college tennis truly is, something that’s evident from hearing the players’ emotions after every match whether it results in a victory or a loss.
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Duke will look to rebound at No. 15 Virginia March 27.
“Our best tennis is still in front of us,” Ashworth said.