It’s always easier to play with a lead than to have to come from behind in tennis. Therefore, a tennis team must win in doubles.
In 10 out of 11 contests, the ASU women’s tennis team has won at least two of the three doubles matches.
ASU has won the overall match on nine of those 10 occasions while compiling a 27-6 combined record in doubles.
Freshman Desirae Krawczyk plays out of the No. 3 doubles spot where she, along with sophomore Leighann Sahagun, hasn’t lost a doubles match all season.
Although Krawczyk admits the one-point lead is helpful, coach Sheila McInerney coaches her to ignore it.
“Sheila tells us to always look at it as 0-0,” Krawczyk said. “The (other) teams want to win so bad; you know they’re going to put up a big fight in singles, so you can never be out.”
Senior Nicole Smith, who plays in the No. 1 doubles slot opposite fellow senior Jacqueline Cako, emphasized that just because they’re ahead doesn’t afford them the luxury of getting complacent.
“As much as it helps, it’s one extra point,” Smith said. “You never want to rest on it thinking we already have one point and take it easy on them.”
The doubles match is especially important for Smith who, after four knee surgeries, isn’t playing in singles in her final year year.
Smith and Cako are 8-3 on the year and are currently ranked as the No. 40 pairing in the nation.
As important as it is for Smith to contribute wins in doubles, she sees her role as even more than that.
“My role, I feel with everyone, is to come out with a lot of energy,” Smith said. “Not only to fire up Jacq (Cako) and I, but fire up the other two courts and have that momentum going into our singles, whether we win it or lose it.”
As important as the doubles point is to determining the outcome of a match, it tends to be overlooked by most average tennis fan.
“Most of the top-ranked professional players, they don’t play doubles,” Smith said. “It’s just not as popular I guess. Your average person who doesn’t know much about tennis will just come and watch singles. But your fan who loves tennis will come and watch singles and doubles and enjoy both.“
Popular or not, the Sun Devils are dominating in doubles. That dominance will soon be tested as they open Pac-12 play on Friday and Sunday against Colorado and Utah.
The conference is home to five of the top-25 doubles tandems in the country and 10 of the top-50, including Cako and Smith at No. 40.
Winning in the Pac-12 isn’t going to be an easy task. But with the way the team’s doubles have competed so far, ASU will probably be playing with a lead.
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