DURHAM, N.C. – After a nine-day layoff, the No. 3 Duke women’s tennis team travels down to Lake Nona, Fla., for the Spearman Family Trip. The Blue Devils will face No. 48 TCU at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Campus. It will be Duke’s first trip to the USTA national headquarters, which holds more than 100 courts.
“We’re very excited,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “We’ve had a really good nine days; we’ve gotten a chance to put in some really good work but at the same time heal up some little things. I think we’re fresh and really ready to go. This is the start of the back half of our season where we just go from now through the ACC Tournament. We’re excited to play and looking forward to the opportunity to play in Florida.”
In a unique opportunity, the women’s team will be playing at the same time as the Duke men’s team, which will also be taking on TCU. The USTA’s Collegiate Tennis Area features 12 hard courts with seating for 1,200 people and room for additional seating areas, allowing for simultaneous matches. The area also features a two-story pavilion including concessions and locker rooms.
It will be just the fourth matchup between Duke and TCU, with the Horned Frogs holding a slight 2-1 advantage. The two schools have met twice in the past three seasons, as Duke won 4-3 in Durham in February 2017 while TCU claimed a 4-3 victory in the 2015 ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Samantha Harris and Rebecca Smaller both have 1-1 singles records against TCU with Smaller beating Seda Arantekin 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 in 2015 and Harris knocking off Donika Bashota 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 in 2017. Meible Chi and Kaitlyn McCarthy both earned a singles win against TCU in 2017 as well.
“We won a tough match against them last year, a 4-3 match.” Ashworth said. “The one thing about them is that they have no fear when they walk on the court, no matter who they play. They’re going to play a great match. They’re a very well-coached team. Lee Taylor Walker is a great coach. I expect it to be a battle. We’ve worked hard and we’re ready to play, but I don’t think rankings mean anything. I think we need to expect a tough match and want a tough match. That’s what will make us better.”
TCU enters Tuesday’s match with a 9-5 record. The Horned Frogs have yet to win a game away from home, amassing a 9-2 record in Fort Worth, Texas and are 0-3 outside of their friendly confines. TCU is currently riding a three match winning streak, beating UCF (4-1), Brown (7-0) and North Texas (4-0). Marie Norris is the top-ranked singles player, checking in at No. 89 in the ITA poll with Aleksandra Zenovka checking in at No. 95. Rounding out the ranked Horned Frogs is Aleksa Cveticanin at No. 120 and Donika Bashota and Elzabeth Tedford ranked as the No. 56 doubles tandem. TCU has been especially dominant at position No. 2 during dual matches, going 11-2 there. Zanovka has six of those 11 wins and Bashota is a perfect 4-0 there.
Duke will get its first look at the USTA National Campus. The headquarters had ground broken on June 3, 2016, with completion in November of 2017. The USTA Player Development division also moved its national headquarters from Boca Raton to Orlando. Former Blue Devil Stephen Amritraj helped arranged the simultaneous match with the Duke men’s and women’s programs as he is on staff in Lake Nona as the USTA’s Director of Collegiate Tennis.
“It should be exciting,” Ashworth added. “I’ve seen matches there, but we’ve yet to be there. I’ve yet to be there personally. But it’s the home of American tennis and they built this amazing collegiate facility. It should be a great opportunity for our team to see that and be a part of that and also to play with the guys. It’s something we rarely do. I can’t remember in my 20 something years that we’ve done something like this where we split the courts up and play doubles together. It should be a really fun atmosphere.”
Duke is 10-1 so far this season and a perfect 3-0 in ACC play. The Blue Devils are on a four-match winning streak and have dropped just one point in that span. Duke beat NC State 6-1 and then dropped Dartmouth, Wake Forest and Virginia all by the score of 7-0. Duke is 4-1 against nationally ranked opponents and is 2-1 on neutral courts.
Harris claimed her 80th career singles win and her 32nd ACC win when she beat Virginia’s 67th-ranked Rosie Johanson 6-3, 6-4. Harris is now third all-time at Duke ins conference wins. She has a team-best 9-4 record against nationally ranked opponents this season and her 21-7 record trails only Kelly Chen’s 22-7 record among the Blue Devils. The Melbourne, Australia native has played all seven dual matches at position No. 1 and is 6-1 there.
Meible Chi has been unbeatable in dual match season, starting with 11 wins in her 11 matches. She is on a 15 match winning streak overall and is 4-0 at position No. 4 and 7-0 at No. 5. Chi is 20-3 overall this season, giving her a team-best .870 winning percentage.
Five Blue Devils are ranked in the top 80 of the ITA singles poll, which trails only North Carolina’s six. Harris leads the way, ranked at No. 7 and her doubles partner, Chen is No. 26. McCarthy ranks at No. 55 and Chi is not far behind her at No. 60. Finally, Ellyse Hamlin is No. 79. On the doubles side, Duke continues to have two duos in the top six. McCarthy and Hamlin are ranked No. 5 and Chen and Harris are right behind at No. 6.