The fall tennis season is officially here, and the Blue Zone takes a look at the start for one of the top programs in the country:
Coming off a 23-5 season, Duke women’s tennis has traditionally been one of the strongest programs in the nation. As the team kicked off their fall campaign last week at the Debbie Southern Furman Fall Classic in Greenville, S.C. and the Kitty Harrison Invitational in Chapel Hill, several recent changes in the Blue Devils’ roster became glaringly obvious. This season will mark the first time in four years that Chloe Beck, 34 ACC singles title winner and 2023 ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, will not be on the team. While her absence was certainly felt, the weekend marked a milestone for freshman Shavit Kimchi, who gained her second top-30 win Sept. 16 and showed immense promise for more victories to come.
Chloe Beck’s absence
Beck finished the 2022-2023 season as the No. 7 ranked singles player in the country and with the intention of returning to Duke for her fifth year. After realizing she was not ready to continue juggling the responsibilities of being a student-athlete, Beck made the tough decision to forgo her additional year of eligibility. While college tennis was an extremely meaningful part of her life, she has enjoyed transitioning to the pro tennis player lifestyle. It seems that big things are ahead for Beck as evidenced by her recent appearance as a wild card in the U.S. Open.
However, Beck’s departure could be a cause of concern for the future of the Duke women’s team. In April, the No. 2-seed Blue Devils were knocked out of the ACC tournament by the No. 7-seed Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, largely due to Beck’s absence at the tournament to play in the ITF W100 tournament in Charleston, S.C. In addition to being unable to defend its ACC title, the team also struggled to go deep into the postseason. This certainly raises an important question: what will the team’s season look like without Beck?
Welcome Shavit Kimchi
Not to worry though, Duke picked up a new player over the summer whose dynamic hitting is already showing results. At the Debbie Southern Furman Fall Classic, freshman Shavit Kimchi defeated No. 27 Sydni Ratliff of Ohio State 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in her stunning debut as a Blue Devil. In the three-set match, Kimchi displayed incredible tenacity and of course, a wicked forehand. Kimchi followed this win up with another victory over No. 17 Elza Tomase of Tennessee 6-1, 2-6, 6-3, before dropping to No. 6 Dasha Vidmanova of Georgia 4-6, 2-6 in the championship bracket.
It’s clear that the freshman is not intimidated by having big shoes to fill this season. In fact, Kimchi is no stranger to competing under pressure and brings a multitude of experience to the team. Prior to coming to Duke, the reigning Israel National Champion served as a Women's Affairs Advisor to the Chief of Staff in the Israel Defense Forces for three years. While it remains uncertain how Kimchi’s impact on the program will compare to that of Beck’s, there is no doubt that the Sdey Hemed, Israel native does not back down from a challenge.
The women’s tennis season is just beginning and success is still uncertain, but fans can expect players to rise to the occasion. Sophomore Katie Codd won three out of four of her singles matches last weekend and gained her first ranked victory over No. 12 Celia Belle Mohr of Vanderbilt 6-3, 7-5. Junior Ellie Coleman also achieved her highest ranked win in her career against Irina Canto Siemers of Ohio State 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 and just four days ago, reached 50 career wins at the USTA Fall Ranked Spotlight in Raleigh. Even though Beck’s absence cannot be ignored, the performances of the team’s remaining players is making a bold statement that the program will only continue to thrive.
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