Just days ago, Duke's whole roster was competing in Champaign, Ill. But after a loss in the national semifinal to Oklahoma, just one remained on the rainy courts at Illinois—junior Chloe Beck.
As the Watkinsville, Ga., native hit the court for the first round of the singles tournament Monday night, she did so knowing that she was in the fight alone for the first time all season. That challenge had no weight on her in the first round, as she took down her opponent, California’s Jessica Alsola, to punch a ticket to Tuesday’s festivities. But in the second round, Beck's individual run was cut short with a straight-set loss to Washington State's Michaela Bayerlova.
"The individual tournament is a tough one because you play basically since January as a team, and you have the emotion of the team there with you," head coach Jamie Ashworth said. "[Beck’s] such a team first person, that when you get in this situation…. I think the first hurdle in that is the emotional level that you have to have and you know, she didn’t play her best. I’d rather have it be that way than someone focusing on and prioritizing the individual tournament. That’s really not what our program is about."
Trailing 1-0 after a 6-4 first set loss to Alsola, Beck needed an X-factor to keep the game going and her energy up to get two wins in two sets. But by playing her usual, strong-willed match, she gained an early advantage in the second set before tallying a 6-4 victory. The Duke star then went on to take the third set 6-4 to continue in the competition.
“Even if her best execution on the tennis court isn’t there, she’s gonna give it 100% every time competing, and she just outcompeted [Alsola] at the end to win the match,” Ashworth said. “It’s a close match, a long match, and, you know, I think [Beck’s] strength, her mental strength really showed during that match in being able to just fight and compete knowing that ‘Okay, maybe I’m not hitting the ball my best, but I can still figure out a way to win.’”
Originally, Beck was going to be accompanied to the individual competition with the doubles duo of sophomore Karolina Berankova and senior Georgia Drummy, but the international students withdrew from the bracket before the first round of play commenced.
"Because of COVID, there was some visa issues that we had to get taken care of," Ashworth said about why Berankova and Drummy did not compete. "It was just embassies were closed from COVID. And we had to take care of that so they could get [to] come back to school."
After Beck's victory Monday, a tough match awaited her Tuesday afternoon against Bayerlova. In her first round, the Washington State fifth-year took down Miami’s Eden Richardson in a near shutout, winning 6-2, 6-0. In the ACC tournament semifinals, Beck faced her first loss of the spring season to Richardson after starting 19-0.
But despite the challenge ahead of her, Beck came into Tuesday's match with the same stride as her win Monday. The Blue Devil maintained a tight match from the start of the first set, getting up to a one-game deficit before dropping the first set 7-5. However, the second set was a different story as Bayerlova simply outcompeted Beck in a 6-2 triumph.
“I think you have a flood of emotions—and she definitely did not play her best. But still, she fought her way and had points here and there to get that first set,” Ashworth said about Beck’s competition with Bayerlova. “And I think just the physical and emotional toll finally caught up to her.”
Despite the loss, Beck’s accomplishments in competing in the singles tournament for a second-straight season indicate her remarkability and improvement. Though she has always been a top player for Duke in doubles, she reached new heights in singles this season and reached a single-digit national ranking for the first time in her collegiate career, peaking at No. 7.
Adding in Tuesday’s loss, Beck finishes the season with a 34-11 overall record.
“I mean, for her, it encompasses what our team needs to do and keep developing and keep believing and understanding how good we can be as a program,” Ashworth said. “She’s already talking about next year, and we’re already talking about next year. We didn’t take the time to get down about this year—let’s keep building and keep getting better. We’ve gotten a little better every year. So let’s keep going.”
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Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.