Tulsa, Okla. Ė Duke freshman Reka Zsilinszka earned her second straight victory while Amanda Granson and Melissa Mang won their first doubles match to advance to the round of 16 at the NCAA Championships in Tulsa, Okla. on Thursday.
Zsilinszka, ranked No. 24 in the ITA singles rankings, defeated No. 57 Lindsey Nelson of Southern California in the second round. It was a matchup of Duke’s freshman against the experienced senior for the Trojans. Nelson has played in the NCAA Singles Championship match in each of the past two seasons.
“What a great match Reka played,” said Ashworth. “That girl (Nelson) from Southern Cal had gone to the finals the last two years. Reka did a good job of controlling her emotions and the tempo of the match. She got a little nervous in the second set but when it came down to the pressure situations she did a good job of controlling her emotions.”
Zsilinszka cruised through the first set with a 6-2 win but found it tougher in the second set. She led 6-5 with the serve but Nelson broke to force a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Zsilinszka took a 3-1 lead before the two exchanged points up until the score was 5-3. She then finished off the match with two straight points to win 6-2, 7-6 (3) and move on to the round of 16.
“I had no idea that she made it to the finals the last two years,” said Zsilinszka. “She is a tall girl who hits the ball hard. It took her a little big to get used to my game so I started well. In the second set the ball started going in for her so I had to fight harder for each point. I played really solid in the tiebreaker and thought overall I played a little better than yesterday.”
With the win Zsilinszka improves her overall record to 40-5 in singles. She becomes just the ninth player in Duke history to record 40 victories in a single season. A win in the round of 16 will move her into a tie for seventh on the single season list with Megan Miller (1998-99). Zsilinszka improved to 9-1 against ranked opponents on Thursday.
“It is exciting to get to 40 wins,” said Zsilinszka. “I don’t really pay a lot of attention to that but it is really cool. Now that I am here I just want to get more than 40 wins and keep playing.”
Next up Zsilinszka will face No. 18 Lenka Broosova of Baylor, who upset the No. 3 seed in the tournament and No. 3 ranked player in the country Hilary Barte of Stanford 6-3, 6-2 in the second round. Broosova also defeated No. 23 Nadia Abdala of Arizona State in the first round.
In doubles the seventh-ranked Duke pair of Granson and Mang took on No. 28 Karolina Soor and Kellie Schmitt of Marshall in the opening round. Soor and Schmitt jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the match. Granson and Mang trailed 4-2 before things clicked and they rattled off four straight to win the first set 6-4. The two teams exchanged games up until Duke broke the serve with the score 3-2. They went on to take a 5-2 lead before eventually serving out for a 6-3 victory.
“We haven’t played in a week so we were expecting to get off to a slow start,” said Mang. “We didn’t let that worry us. We just kept playing and were aggressive so things started working for us. Once we finished off the first set it was momentum for us and we played really well.”
In the NCAA championships, the doubles teams play two sets to six, which is a longer match than during the regular season when they play one pro set to eight.
“It is more of a mental thing for them,” said Ashworth. “You can get to eight and relax so we were joking there sitting on the courts saying they are up 9-3, 10-3 and trying to think of it that way instead of saying you need to win two of the three sets. It takes a little bit of getting used to because doubles is usually a quick thing but here it is a little bit more of a grind.”
Granson and Mang improve to 27-10 on the season in doubles. They will face the winner of the match between No. 32 Nika Koukhartchouk and Karen Nijssen of Mississippi and No. 30 Laila Abdala and Nadia Abdala of Arizona State.