WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The Duke women’s tennis team had its final remaining doubles tandem advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals on Friday afternoon at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.
Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin were matched up with Clemson’s pairing of Marie Leduc and Fernanda Navarro in the Round of 16. The first set was a back and forth affair. The Tigers duo won the first two games, but Duke’s tandem immediately tied the score. From there, each team traded games until the score was tied 5-5. Then McCarthy and Hamlin buckled down and won the final two games to win the crucial first set.
In the second set, each team won a pair of games to put the score at 2-2. But after that it, was all McCarthy and Hamlin. Duke’s top tandem methodically won game after game, not allowing Clemson’s duo to gain any hope. The final score finished 7-5, 6-2 with McCarthy and Hamlin advancing to the quarterfinals.
“They had a really good win today,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “It was kind of a routine match for them, although nothing at this stage is routine. They played basic doubles. They didn’t have to do anything special. They stayed aggressive, they served fairly well. Throughout the match, they were just the better team. It was good to get off the court in straight sets and get prepared for a good match tomorrow.”
While McCarthy and Hamlin are advancing, Friday saw one of the greatest Duke rookie campaigns come to an end. Kelly Chen was the last remaining singles player left for Duke and was trying to become the first Blue Devil to reach the NCAA quarterfinals since Beatrice Capra and Ester Goldfeld in 2014. The freshman from Cerritos, Calif., was matched with Florida’s No. 9 through No. 16 seed Anna Danilina and looked well on her way to a victory in the first set. Chen jumped out to a 4-0 lead and crusied from there to a 6-2 lead.
With her back against the wall, Danilina went on the offensive and took an early lead. Chen fought back to tie the match at 4-4 and then took her first lead at 5-4 with a break point. But she could not close the door, allowing Danilina to tie the match with a break point of her own. The Gator followed by winning consecutive games to extend the match to a third set.
In the third set, Danilina won five of the first six games to put the finishing touches on what became a 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 win. For Chen, she finishes with a 40-8 singles record, which is tied for the third-highest win total by a Duke freshman. The loss snaps her 22-match winning streak, which is the second-longest by a rookie. She became the first freshman to earn All-America honors since Capra in 2012 and just the 14th in program history.
“I think the moment got to Kelly,” Ashworth said. “That was definitely a freshman playing a senior. A senior from Florida that has been in a lot of big matches, whether it’s individual or team. Kelly had her on the ropes, but when you let someone like that off the hook, they take advantage of it. It’s a learning experience for Kelly. She’s had an amazing year and a great run here so I think she’ll take a lot from that, especially with what she has to do when she has someone in trouble. At this level, you might only get one opportunity to finish the match and if you don’t, you might get beat. She definitely gave herself that opportunity and ended up losing a tough one. But again, I’m definitely proud of the year she’s had and the work she’s put in.”
McCarthy and Hamlin will play Vanderbilt’s Fernanda Contreras and Astra Sharma at 3:00 p.m., on Saturday afternoon.
“I think the biggest thing for those two, what’s across the net doesn’t matter, it’s what we’re doing on our side,” Ashworth added. “With Ellyse taking some balls out of the air, with Kaitlyn swinging, with using some variety. Today, they lobbed really well. If we can create chaos on the other side of the net with some variety and be aggressive, then good things have been happening.”
2018 NCAA Div. I Women’s Singles Championship May 23-28, 2018 at Winston-Salem, N.C. (Wake Forest Tennis Complex)
Round of 16
No. 18 Anna Danilina (Florida) def. No. 28 Kelly Chen (Duke) 2-6, 7-5, 6-2