WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The Duke women’s tennis team had two players advance to the NCAA Singles Round of 32 at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex on Wednesday afternoon.
To open the day, freshman Kelly Chen earned the first individual NCAA Tournament win of her career in dramatic fashion. Chen was matched up against Pepperdine’s No. 54-ranked Evgeniya Levashova in the Round of 64. Levashova dominated the first set, winning 6-2. Early in the second set, that trend continued as Levashova took an early 3-1 lead. Chen chipped away though and took the lead to claim a 6-4 second set.
“That was a battle for Kelly,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “For a set and a half, her opponent didn’t miss a ball and came out firing big serves. I was impressed with how Kelly stayed in there. She hung around and wait for an opportunity to get back in match, and when it came, she took advantage. She had to withstand a barrage of shots and games, but never gave up. Even when she was down a set and 4-1, she stayed emotional and pumping her fist. She never had a feel sorry attitude and competed her butt off to win. As a freshman in her first individual championship, it was great to see.”
The third set proved to be a back-and-forth affair. After splitting the first four games, Chen reeled off three straight, including a crucial break point to take a 5-2 lead. Levashova answered right back with three straight games of her own to tie the match once again. After each player held serve, the match was taken to a tiebreaker. There, Chen took a 4-2 lead early on and protected that lead to win the tiebreaker 7-4 on a Levashova double fault.
Joining Chen in the second round was Meible Chi. Chi, competing in the NCAA singles tournament for the second straight year, drew Oklahoma’s No. 41 Lily Miyazaki. Chi was coming off a loss in Duke’s semifinal loss to Stanford in the team tournament, but bounced back with a straight sets win against Miyazaki. Chi opened with a 6-3 first set and followed by winning three of the final four games to close out the second set 6-4.
“I think Meible played a smart match,” added Ashworth. “She commented after that she didn’t hit great, but played smart. She stayed committed to a game plan that was working. She kept attacking on that game plan. It was good for her to get that win. Meible lost a tough match last year and so she should build confidence moving forward.”
The pair will return to action on Thursday with Round of 32 singles play. Chen will battle North Carolina’s No. 2-ranked Makenna Jones. It will be a rematch of when the two met in the ITA Indoor Team Semifinals. Jones won that match 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Chi will play the No. 9 through No. 16 seed of Florida International’s Andrea Lazaro.
“It’s a day of opportunities,” commented Ashworth. “The singles have some tough matches, but are great opportunities to play with no pressure. There’s so much more pressure in the team matches, now it’s time to go out and have fun and play free and swing Just let the results take care of themselves. I told them they have nothing to lose, let's go play and have fun.”
Also playing on Thursday will be Duke’s doubles pairs. Chen will pair with Samantha Harris and are seeded No. 5 through No. 8. Their first round opponents will be Texas Tech’s No. 28 Sarah Dvorak and Sabrina Federici at 4:30 p.m. Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin are also a No. 5 through No. 8 seed and will open the tournament against Pepperdine’s No. 13 Luisa Stefani and Mayar Sherif Ahmed at 2:30 p.m.
“With doubles, it’s a little different,” Ashworth said. “The scoring changes means there are longer matches. It gives more time for in-match adjustments. There’s not that time in team matches. Everyone is excited to go out and play.”
Live video and scoring for each match can be found here.
2018 NCAA Div. I Women’s Singles Championship
May 23-28, 2018 at Winston-Salem, N.C. (Wake Forest Tennis Complex)
Singles – First Round
No. 28 Kelly Chen (Duke) def. No. 54 Evgeniya Levashova (Pepperdine) 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4)
No. 55 Meible Chi (Duke) def. No. 41 Lily Miyazaki (Oklahoma) 6-3, 6-4