Chloe Beck may have been the only new player to join the team in the fall of 2019, but she has proven since then that even the smallest recruiting classes can be the most outstanding.
The Watkinsville, Ga., native currently boasts a 26-4 overall singles record, and her freshman season was cut short due to COVID-19. This past season the team had a 66.4 singles win percentage on completed matches, and Beck outperformed the team with an 86.6 win percentage in her own finished singles. One would never know that from talking to her, though, as she has proven time and time again that she values the team over her own performance.
“This season especially, she led with her fight, with her determination, you know, with really her grit. I mean, the match we played against N.C. State is a perfect example,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said.
“She has seven stitches in her hands, she had a little accident before that and her hand’s taped up and she popped one of the stitches during the middle of the match. There's blood pouring down her hand. And she's upset on the sideline, not because her hand hurts, but because she doesn't want to stop for our team. She finished the match, she even won the match. There was blood, sweat and tears to help our team.”
'Out of the shadow of Athens'
Beck grew up with two former college tennis players for parents. Her father played at Jacksonville State and Emory, the latter of which her mother also played at. Her mother later went on to be an assistant tennis coach at Georgia.
When it came to recruiting Beck, Ashworth had known her for some time because of her mother’s time at Georgia.
“I was hoping that she would get out of the shadow of Athens, Georgia and not go to school at Georgia where her mother had worked,” Ashworth said.
Beck shined as a star during her junior tennis career, checking in at as high as No. 38 in the ITF World Junior ranking. Consequently, she was a mainstay in the top-10 of her recruiting class throughout all four years of high school and certainly had her pick of colleges. Beyond her skills on the court, her determination to receive an excellent education landed her a spot as the only member of her recruiting class at Duke her freshman year.
“I chose Duke for many reasons. But I think the obvious reasons being the tennis team has always been incredibly strong. And the academics are also incredibly strong,” Beck said when reflecting on her recruitment process. “But more so than that is definitely just having a really solid bond with the team. I just felt like I clicked with all of them when I visited, so I think it was definitely the girls and just the team culture that drew me to Duke.”
While COVID-19 cut her freshman season short and affected her sophomore season in many ways, it also brought Beck and her teammates much closer together, fulfilling the main reason she chose Duke.
“I lived in a suite style dorm with [Margaryta Bilokin] and Georgia [Drummy], and Karolina [Berankova] lived just a couple doors away because she came in January,” Beck said. “We were all super close in proximity. That was really nice to have them super close.”
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The camaraderie of the team that drew Beck to Duke (and kept her loving it) is one of Beck’s main motivations for giving the sport her all.
Playing for the people
Beck has stood out during her short career at Duke as a consistent winner, but she never does it to boost her own ego, despite tennis being one of the most individual sports one can play.
“She’s a firm believer in team first. She would set aside most individual goals for the team,” Ashworth said. “In our sport, that’s not a common thing, because at the end of the day it is an individual sport.”
This season, the sophomore played line three singles in almost every match. Ashworth was almost always able to count on a win in that spot for the team, and remarked many times this season about his confidence that Beck will be able to deliver for the team.
A fantastic moment that proves that point is also, not surprisingly, Beck’s favorite moment from her sophomore season, her match against Central Florida’s Evgeniya Levashova during the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Beck dropped the first set 4-6 in the muggy Orlando heat with Central Florida's fans filling the stands cheering for Levashova. She dug down deep inside herself to come back and won the second set 6-2. By the time her third set started, it was late at night and the rest of her team had gathered on Court Two to watch her match finish. It was then that Beck realized the match and the team’s ticket to the Elite Eight was dependent on her. With her teammates cheering her on, she battled through cramping and exhaustion to win the third set 6-4 to send the Blue Devils to the quarterfinals.
For Beck, that match was not about making her own record better. It was only about the team.
“The match against Central Florida was just very exciting because I was cramping and I was still able to pull it out,” Beck said. “I hadn’t had a moment like that before. It just felt really good to be able to do something that benefitted the whole team and obviously got us into the quarterfinals.”
Many of the shots that won Beck that crucial match were volleys, which can be rare to see in singles matches at the college level.
“She's definitely in the top two or three most creative players I've ever had the opportunity to work with. She uses the court and uses her shots and plays out of the ordinary way,” Ashworth said on what makes Beck stand out and able to rack up wins. “To see that develop into where she is today and know that she can keep getting better at that is great.
“I'm looking forward to watching that. If you say hit a drop shot, she can then drop; if you say slice, then she can slice, I mean, she can really do anything. It just goes along with her creative personality.”
'She has no ceiling'
When her freshman season was cut short last March, Beck could have gone home to Georgia discouraged and upset. Instead, she continued to practice and improve during the longer-than-normal offseason. Her skills on the court didn’t falter but she realized during that time that in order for her to continue to grow as a player, she needed to work on more than just her strokes and serves.
“In January of this year, I started doing a lot more work off court on the mental side of tennis,” Beck said. “I think that definitely is where I started figuring out who I want to be as a player and figuring out what mattered to me as a student-athlete, and definitely helped my performance this semester.”
If you’ve ever seen Beck play during a particularly intense singles match, you know that she rarely shows any signs of mental fatigue. Aside from celebrations after remarkable points, she appears very calm and collected, no matter the score. Playing a sport where success depends entirely on the individual, it can be a challenge to continue to fight even when you’re feeling down, but Beck has found a way to help her handle that to remain calm on and off the court.
“I started doing this meditation app called Headspace. I’ve done that every day since Christmas morning,” Beck said. “I do a lot of journaling, just reflecting on my day and doing positive affirmations for myself. I think that’s what has really helped me this semester with tennis, and with stuff off the court as well.”
Despite being one of the youngest on the team this season, Beck led the team with heart and passion, and she has at least another two seasons to continue doing so.
“She has no ceiling. I think tennis-wise, she has no ceiling. Personality-wise, she has no ceiling. I'm looking forward to seeing both of those develop over the next couple of years,” Ashworth said. “Tennis is obviously an important thing in what we do, but in the three years that I've really been around her, I've seen her mature and grow.
“I'm excited to see her continue on that path. There's just boundless excitement around her and some kids come in and say ‘I want to do this, this and this,’ and I think that she hasn't boxed herself into anything like that yet.”
Beck is heading into her junior season already with postseason success under her belt and a winner’s mindset. No matter how she continues to grow and improve both her tennis and mental game, Duke fans can rest assured that she’s doing it all for the team.