DURHAM, N.C. – Duke men’s tennis associate head coach Jonathan Stokke is in his eighth season on the Blue Devil staff. Stokke, who joined the staff in July, 2010, was an assistant coach for his first five campaigns before becoming an associate head coach prior to the 2015-16 season.
This spring, Stokke helped guide Duke back to the ITA Team Indoor Championship prior to hitting the outdoor tennis courts. The Blue Devils own a 7-4 overall record, but are off to a 3-1 start at home. Duke will host a doubleheader Saturday to open the outdoor portion of the season. Recently Stokke spent time with GoDuke.com.
GoDuke.com: Duke made a return to the ITA Team Indoor Championship this year. What did that experience in Seattle mean for this group?
Jonathan Stokke: It was great to be back in the top 16 this year. Our guys earned it the hard way as we made it through the TCU regional with Nicolas Alvarez unavailable due to injury. We learned a lot about ourselves throughout the tournament. Moving forward we have keyed on a few areas for improvement that can help us as we head into the ACC season.
GoDuke.com: You have had few matches this season with a full, healthy team. Does that help in the long run - knowing you’ve had a lot of guys playing in different positions?
JS: It’s always unfortunate when guys go down with injuries. We have only played our full lineup once this year, so we have had our fair share of adversity to start the season. We have had every guy on the roster play meaningful singles matches, which should help our depth as the season goes on.
GoDuke.com: What is the biggest adjustment this year’s team will have to make between the indoor and outdoor seasons?
JS: We had a unique start to our season as our first three dual matches (at Arizona State, vs. Louisville and vs. San Diego) were all outdoors. I don’t anticipate any big adjustments moving forward. Sometimes it’s difficult adjusting to all the new variables of outdoor tennis (sun, wind, cold temperatures, etc.) but we have a nice advantage in that we’ve already played a few tough matches outdoors.
GoDuke.com: As a player, which did you prefer and why – indoor or outdoor season?
JS: As a player I always preferred playing indoors. I was a serve and volley player and wanted to play in the fastest conditions possible. However, I enjoyed the outdoor season the most as the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament are both outdoor events. My teammates and I earned two championship rings outdoors. That’s something we will share forever.
GoDuke.com: As you transition into the outdoor season, what are you most proud of with this team so far?
JS: I’m most proud of the hard work we have put in to improving our doubles. We are 7-4 and have played most of our matches against NCAA Tournament teams. We have spent a lot of time on the court fine tuning our skills, and even more time off the court watching video and improving our tactics. I’m excited to see where our doubles will be by ACC Tournament time after another nine weeks of deliberate practice.
GoDuke.com: What is one goal you have for this group as it heads to the outdoor season?
JS: My goal is to have a great practice on Wednesday. My next goal would be to have an even better practice Thursday. I want these guys to view each day as a special opportunity to improve and grow as players. They are a talented group and I believe great things lie ahead if we can keep our focus on one day at a time.