Long winning streaks becoming the norm for ASU women's tennis doubles pair

In their second year playing together, senior Kassidy Jump and sophomore Sammi Hampton have reached new heights

Senior Kassidy Jump and sophomore Sammi Hampton started playing doubles together last season, and the chemistry they have developed has taken their game to the next level in 2016-17.

“Oh, I love it, I just love playing with her,” Hampton said of playing with Jump. “We already have that chemistry going, and we know what were supposed to do.”

In their time together the duo has enjoyed long winning streaks. From late January to early April of last season, the pair compiled a 15-game win streak, in route to a 28-8 overall record. 

This season, after a loss at the Tennessee Fall Invitational, the pairing went on another run, winning 11 consecutive matches from Oct. 29 to March 3. They earned back-to-back wins against then-No. 16 South Carolina and then-No. 9 Texas Tech ,respectively, in late January – without surrendering a game.

Erick Fowler | The State Press

"ASU women's tennis: comparing this year to last year." Graphic published Monday, March 27, 2017.

“Honestly, in Texas we just played that well,” Jump said. “Those teams we played, especially South Carolina, are really good doubles teams. We didn’t give them a chance and took advantage of everything.”

Although Jump and Hampton play on court three, a one-set match against collegiate competition is never a given. If anything, it is proof of ASU’s depth in doubles. On many teams the duo — known by their teammates as “Fist Pump” and “Sammi Hampster” — could play and win on court one.

To have success in doubles, head coach Sheila McInerney has constantly preached first-ball in. Generally, if the server can put the first serve in play 70 percent of the time, the returner will just look to keep the ball in play, and this has allowed Jump and Hampton to dictate rallies.

On the contrary, a lower percentage of first serves and returns gives the opponent an opportunity to aggressively return a weaker second serve. In the eyes of McInerney this, combined with too many unforced errors, is where all three of ASU doubles pairs run into trouble.

“Sammi (Hampton) is serving a lot bigger and Kassidy (Jump) continues to return well,” McInerney said. “In doubles, if you can serve and return well, I think good things happen, and they do get along well on the court.”

Hampton reinjured her shin, an injury from last season, in her singles match against Texas Tech. She did not hit a ball in practice for three weeks but did not miss any matches. Jump practiced with senior Gussie O’Sullivan, who she played doubles with when Hampton missed time last year. Once their match started, she said it was easy to get in rhythm with Hampton.

“Sammi (Hampton) and I have been playing for a long time now, so we just get right back into it," Jump said.

After a loss to then-No.14 Pepperdine and unfinished matches against No. 2 Ohio State and Utah respectively, Jump and Hampton started a new winning streak.

This four-match streak, albeit smaller than the previous two, was impressive nonetheless. It included back-to-back wins at Stanford and Cal. The win against the Cardinal clinched the doubles point for the Sun Devils.

“Kassidy (Jump) and Sammi (Hampton) continue to be a great spot for us in the doubles,” McInerney said after the match with Cal.

They attribute a lot of their success this season to playing together all last year, a luxury the other two pairings don't possess.

Senior Alex Osborne and junior Nicole Fossa-Huergo on court one, along with junior Kelley Anderson and freshman Savannah Slaysman the second court both started playing together last fall. Fossa-Huergo and Anderson transferred from Armstrong State and Baylor respectively, and Osborne won the 2016 Pac-12 doubles championship with then-senior and current graduate assistant coach Ebony Panoho.

Picking a partner that meshes well with your style of play is key, and Jump said that played a role in developing camaraderie with Hampton.

“She hits a big ball and I hit a big ball, I look to try and set her up when I am at the baseline,” Jump said. “I don’t usually move a ton at the net — that is kind of how I have always been, but as my years have progressed here, I try to move as much as I can. She has a big serve, so I try to take advantage. On the opponents return, if I can move off that (Hampton’s big serve,) I try to do that.”

Three basic formations are typically used in doubles. The up-and-back formation places one player on the baseline and the other player in the box near the net, depending on what service box the ball is served to. The both-up formation places one player in the deuce service box and the other stands in the ad service box. Finally, the both-back formation places both players on the baseline.

Hampton said she and Jump prefer a simplified strategy.

“We don’t do too many formations, which I think is good for us,” Hampton said. “Kassidy (Jump) hits a big ball that I can move off, I hit a big serve that she can move off, and it’s great because we have a lot of fun with it. We’re not too hard on ourselves.”

During her freshman year, Hampton realized what it takes to succeed at the collegiate level, and she and Jump want continue executing.

“We knew the teams were going to be tough, but we knew our game plan. We said let’s just be solid and make our returns, but be aggressive at the same time, and honestly I guess that is all you have to do at this level."

Reach the reporter at jpjacqu1@asu.edu or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

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