Tennis

Syracuse tennis doubles pairs still in flux

Courtesy of Syracuse Athletics

Syracuse cannot arrive at consistent doubles pairings, and a one out of eight rate of winning the doubles point reflects that.

Gabriela Knutson and Maria Tritou laughed when asked about their knowledge of upcoming doubles lineups.

“We have no idea,” Knutson said. “It’s not our choice. … They tell us five minutes before the match who we’re gonna play with. We don’t have much say in it.”

“He (head coach Younes Limam) likes surprises,” Tritou said.

On Feb. 18, Syracuse (2-6, 0-2 Atlantic Coast) defeated Buffalo 6-1, which included securing the doubles point by winning in first and third doubles. The following day, Brown came to town and defeated SU by the identical score, 6-1. The Bears copied Syracuse’s on-paper success from the day before, winning in first and third doubles. Between Saturday and Sunday, the Orange had made wholesale changes to its doubles lineups, and it showed.

Against Buffalo, Syracuse lined up Knutson and Miranda Ramirez at first doubles. The second doubles pairing was Nicole Mitchell and Dina Hegab, with Tritou and Anna Shkudun comprising the third. Against Brown the next day, even after wins in first and third doubles the day before, Limam altered all the pairings. Mitchell and Tritou partnered in first doubles, followed by Knutson and Shkudun in second and Ramirez playing with Hegab in third.

Inconsistency in pairings stems partially from the loss of Valeria Salazar for the entire season with a right wrist injury. By the end of last season, Knutson and Salazar had formed a strong doubles duo and played together every match. Entering this season, they were ranked Top 10 in the country, and Salazar’s absence has created the flux in the partnerships.

Limam said there weren’t any radical theories behind the changes. Rather, he said that it’s early in the season and he still is looking for the strongest pairings and best methods to win the doubles point. As Limam has said time and again, the number doesn’t matter to him.

“As far as where we play, we’re kind of always taught that that doesn’t matter,” Mitchell said. “It’s just about playing the tennis ball. So, we really don’t focus on the position we’re playing when we actually go out on the court.”

Winning the doubles point has proved difficult thus far for Syracuse, managing to do so only in the win against Buffalo. That makes Syracuse 1-of-8 at winning the doubles point. This correlates strongly to Syracuse’s 2-6 record. The only match where the result of the doubles point was different than the result of the overall match was the season opener against Yale, which SU came back to win 4-3 after losing the doubles point.

As the season goes on, Limam hopes that the team can find consistent doubles pairings, rather than announcing wholesale changes to the lineup right before warmups begin on matchday.

Syracuse played again this past weekend on Feb. 26, and returned back to the lineups that had won the doubles point against Buffalo. Syracuse was, however, unable to secure the doubles point against Boston College as only the Knutson/Ramirez first doubles pairing won its match.

The correlation between doubles record and overall record is clear for Syracuse. To turn the slow start to the season around, Syracuse needs to find consistent pairings to start winning doubles points.

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