PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – With a comeback victory, juniors Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin of the Duke women’s tennis team won the Riviera ITA All-American National Championship on Sunday. The Blue Devil pairing beat Texas Tech’s eighth-ranked duo of Sara Dvorak and Sabrina Federici 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 (5) to win the title.
In the early goings of the 2017-18 season, the doubles tandem of McCarthy and Hamlin has been dominant. The two earned a spot in the Riviera main draw by winning the International Tennis Association’s (ITA) Summer Championship. The pairing continued to impress as the two Blue Devils won all three of their doubles matches at the Duke Bonk Invitational to start the fall season.
“The biggest thing about Kaitlyn and I is that off the court we’re really close, and so on the court our communication is really good,” said Hamlin. “We’re able to pump each other up and there’s a lot of trust between the two of us. I think that stems from our off court relationship and it translates on the court and that ability to play well and adapt. We have that trust in each other so it’s good.”
The strong run continued at the Riviera All-Americans, with McCarthy and Hamlin winning four matches, including three over ranked teams. The run was in jeopardy during the championship match though, as Dvorak and Federici jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first set. Although, McCarthy and Hamlin could not come back to win the first set, some tactical adjustments gave them confidence heading into the second.
“They did a tremendous job of changing their game halfway through the first set,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “They were down 4-1 in the first set after 15 minutes and really dominated the match after that. They completely changed their strategy and made the match slower. They did a great job of being disciplined to stay with that. I told them halfway through the first set that if you guys are willing to stay with this and stay disciplined, you can win this match. If it was going to be a power match then we were going to be in trouble. But I thought we did a great job of making the necessary adjustments.”
The adjustments allowed Hamlin and McCarthy to take the second set to force a tiebreaker. In that tiebreaker, the Blue Devil tandem used the momentum they gained in the second set to close out the match and win the national championship.
“Towards the end of the first set, we really found a groove and got going,” McCarthy said. “It was tough that we had a bad start, but we kept with it in the second set and it turned in our favor. I think we had momentum heading into the tiebreaker and they thought they had to do something a lot more special and that accounted for a couple of the loose mistakes in the tiebreak. The biggest thing was us just playing solid and keeping our cool. That was the biggest thing.”
McCarthy and Hamlin were not the only Duke players to have a great week at the Riviera. Senior Samantha Harris and freshman Kelly Chen won three matches in the qualifying draw to earn a spot in the main draw and then won three more matches to reach the semifinals.
“I thought for everyone it was a great week,” commented Ashworth. “Winning an individual national championship is an amazing thing and a great feeling for the girls. I thought as whole we got tremendously better. We had Kelly and Sam making it to the semifinals having to come through qualifying and having never played together.”
Although Harris and Chen bowed out in the semifinals, their match with Dvorak and Federici ended up helping McCarthy and Hamlin.
“They provided a great learning plan for our match today” Ashworth said. “They gave us a great learning platform for what we needed to do to be able to win today. I think there’s a lot of excitement, not just with the pair that won today, but with the others as well and hopefully we don’t become satisfied with that and we can keep working and keep building.”
Duke was the first team since 2004 to place two teams in the semifinals. The support both teams gave each other helped to push both Blue Devil tandems.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie,” Hamlin said. “We want to see them do well. They’re our teammates. Each match we were able to cheer each other on. There was a lot of support there. It helped both teams do as well as we did. Our team is really close, and having that amount of people here was huge.”
That support will again be in place for the Oracle ITA Fall National Championships as both duos gained automatic entries into the main draw with their places in the semifinals.
“Our doubles were great. We were the only team to have two pairs in the semifinals,” Ashworth said “We had opportunities to have two in the finals so I think that’s a very positive step. There’s a lot to build on and a lot to be proud of. It was a great way to end the week with these two winning.”
The next tournament for the Blue Devils will be the ITA Regionals in Chapel Hill, N.C. The regionals will start on Oct. 19 and run through Oct. 23.
Pre-Qualifying Third Round
Kelly Chen (Duke) def. Sabrina Federici (Texas Tech) 6-1, 6-2
Qualifying First Round
#20 Meible Chi (Duke) def. #59 Miranda Ramirez (Syracuse) 6-1, 6-4
#38 Gabriela Knutson (Syracuse) def. Kelly Chen (Duke) 6-4, 6-4
#54 Samantha Harris (Duke) def. #78 Shweta Sangwen (Oregon) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
#57 Kaitlyn McCarthy (Duke) def. #77 Liza Buss (SMU) 6-1, 6-1
Qualifying Second Round
Katarina Jokic (Georgia) def. #20 Meible Chi (Duke) 6-4, 6-2
#53 Akvile Parazinskaite (Kentucky) def. #54 Samantha Harris (Duke) 1-6, 7-5, 6-1
#35 Anastasia Rychagova (Kansas) def. #57 Kaitlyn McCarthy (Duke) 6-4, 4-6, 5-7
Qualifying Consolation Round of 32
Kelly Chen (Duke) def. Margo Pletcher (Utah) 6-3, 6-1
Qualifying Consolation Round of 16
Kelly Chen (Duke) def. No. 50 Sybille Gauvain (San Jose State) 6-1, 6-2
Round of 32
#25 Kaitlyn McCarthy/Ellyse Hamlin (Duke) def. Erin Larner/Lee Or (Northwestern) 8-6
#60 Samantha Harris/Kelly Chen (Duke) def. #15 Vladica Babic/Sofia Blanco (Oklahoma State) 8-7 (6)
#25 Kaitlyn McCarthy/Ellyse Hamlin (Duke) def. #47 Gabriela Knutson/Miranda Ramirez (Syracuse) 6-3, 6-3
#8 Sarah Dvorak/Sabrina Federici (Texas Tech) def. #60 Samantha Harris/Kelly Chen (Duke) 6-1, 0-6, 1-0 (10-6)