DURHAM, N.C. – Five members of the Duke women’s tennis team travel to Pacific Palisades, Calif., to compete in the 2017 Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships. The competition begins on Sept. 30 and runs through Sunday, Oct. 8. Pre-qualifying contests begin Saturday, with qualifying starting Oct. 3 and main draw competition getting underway Oct. 5.
“A lot of people look at this tournament as an opportunity to see where you are, but I think we want more out of our players than that, “said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “ We want to set the tone as we move towards the back end of the fall. There are great opportunities for these ladies, but there are also great challenges. I’m hoping we go out there and play smart, disciplined tennis. Each of the players has their own goals and I think it’s a great event to make a statement against some really good competition.”
Junior Ellyse Hamlin and freshman Kelly Chen will be the first two Blue Devils to take the court in California. Both will play in the pre-qualifying draw starting on Saturday. Hamlin is 3-0 this season after winning her individual draw at the Duke Invitational while Chen went 2-1 at the same tournament. Chen will open the tournament at 1:30 on Saturday with a matchup against Air Force's Tami Fumagalli while Hamlin plays SMU's Anzhelika Shapovalova at 3:15.
Each of those is a statement opportunity for each girl,” Ashworth said. “Those draws are a product of where you finish last year and the freshmen don’t get a great opportunity. They’re all put in to the pre-qualifying. For Kelly, it’s an opportunity to show I’m a better player than this. For Ellyse, it’s the same thing. Ellyse has had a great fall so far. Her attitude has been the best it has been since she’s been here. She’s taken a more professional approach to everything. She’s had some results to show from that and hopefully she can keep building on that.
Hamlin and Chen will be joined by senior Samantha Harris, junior Kaitlyn McCarthy, and sophomore Meible Chi for the qualifying rounds. Chi leads Duke in the International Tennis Association (ITA) national rankings as she is the 20th-ranked singles player, while Harris is ranked 54th and McCarthy is ranked 57th. Each will start in the singles qualifying draw on Tuesday. Harris and Chen, the ITA’s 60th-ranked doubles pair, will also be playing in the doubles qualifying draw.
Duke will have at least one pair in the doubles main draw, as McCarthy and Hamlin earned their spot in the main draw by winning the title at the ITA Summer Nationals in August. McCarthy and Hamlin are ranked 25th in the ITA’s doubles rankings and started the fall with three doubles win at the Duke Bonk Invitational.
“We are looking for them (McCarthy and Hamlin) to keep improving and to play aggressive,” commented Ashworth. “To play a little bit more free than they did in Cary. We’ve been working with them, before the tournament, to be more aggressive and to be really good at first strike opportunities. The first opportunity you get to hit a ball, hit it. Don’t feel your way into a match. The doubles matches are too quick with the scoring system, and so you have to come out from the first ball and be able to hit it. They’re both capable of doing that so hopefully we see that out of them.”
The eight singles quarterfinalists, the two singles consolation finalists, the four doubles semifinalists, and the two doubles consolation finalists will all be awarded entries into the 2017 Oracle ITA National Fall Championships main draw.
After the All-American, the Blue Devils will travel down the road to Chapel Hill, N.C. for the ITA Regionals starting on Oct. 19.