Every week, the Blue Zone breaks down an outstanding spring athlete, looking at their weekly performance and their season as a whole. Up next is Pedro Rodenas:
At the helm of a Duke team climbing to the top of the nation is a freshman. As he reminded the Blue Devil faithful over the weekend — with breezy victories in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament — Pedro Rodenas is a force to be reckoned with.
Though the Madrid native has been unleashing rapid-fire serves and returns all season, he saved some of his best tennis for the big leagues — the national tournament. Alongside senior teammate Garrett Johns, Rodenas kickstarted Duke’s defeat of UNC Wilmington with a quick doubles clean-up against the Seahawks’ top team. They finished their set quickly, wrapping it up 6-2 to allow the pair a break before they took on singles opponents.
It took a moment for Rodenas to find his footing against UNC Wilmington’s Reece Falck. But once he did, it was all over for the Seahawk across the net, who Rodenas wiped out in two sets, 6-3, 6-1. Sunday, he did it all over again, joining Johns in a swift 6-3 defeat of a Cornell pair and then following it with fierce tennis against Vladislav Melnic, who retired after a set and a half.
These recent performances from the King’s College product follow a season characterized by astonishing progress from the young Blue Devil. Duke’s season started with the new year; Rodenas held off a loss all the way until he was defeated by then No. 2 Kentucky’s Joshua Lapadat midway through February. But aside from that loss and one other against then No. 12 Virginia in a vicious three-set face off, Rodenas has not lost a singles match in his rookie season.
His skill is certainly not limited to one kind of tennis: It is a similar story when it comes to Rodenas’ doubles game. The Spaniard fell into perfect step with Johns as his doubles partner, and together, the two have fended off all but three losses. Currently ranked at No. 25 in the country, the pair is first among the Blue Devils and seventh in the ACC.
Rodenas’ stellar prowess was awarded May 1 with the title of ACC Rookie of the Year. This honor followed a particularly impressive weekend from the freshman in the conference championship match. Duke took on Virginia in the ACC finals; though the team did not come out with a conference title, Rodenas held his own, beating second-seeded junior Iñaki Montes in just two sets. On Saturday, Rodenas and Montes will presumably face off once again for the NCAA super regionals, where the young Blue Devil will do his best to repeat his earlier performance and help Duke snag a ticket to the national finals.
Regardless of what happens there, Rodenas will have a shot at the national stage sans the company of his team. Per an at-large selection, he is one of 64 individual players to qualify for the NCAA singles tournament, where he will have the chance to showcase the talent that has taken him so far in his rookie season. On top of that, the Madrid native will join Johns in the NCAA doubles tournament. In short, Rodenas will be spending a lot of his time dancing.
Just a few short weeks are left for this highly decorated and promising freshman to flex his status as one of the nation’s top rookies. If Rodenas continues to play as he has all season, the Blue Devils will be sure to see even more success in this already storied tennis season.
With Johns’ recent announcement that he will be returning to Duke for his graduate year, the Blue Devil faithful can look forward to another year of this top-notch duo — and more of Rodenas’ swift and brilliant style.
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Sophie Levenson is a Trinity first-year and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.