Shkudun and Knutson dominate doubles but let down in singles as SU falls to Brown, 6-1

Courtesy of SU Athletics

Anna Shkudun fell in No. 1 singles on Sunday, 7-5, 6-0. She and Gabriela Knutson dominated in No. 2 singles just a few hours earlier.

Gabriela Knutson and Anna Shkudun’s smiles turned to scowls. High-fives turned to frustrated leg slaps and artful winners turned to errant shots.

The day had started so well. Knutson battled a cold while playing doubles with Shkudun for the first time and the pairing dominated Mariska Chamdani and Maddie Stearns, Brown’s No. 2 doubles team, for a 6-1 win.

“We’re very intimidating to the other players,” Knutson said. “They were just scared of us.”

But the smiles quickly faded as both Knutson and Shkudun laid eggs in their respective singles matches. The lackluster performance from Syracuse’s No. 1 and No. 2 singles players cost the Orange (2-5, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) as it fell to Brown (4-1) on Sunday, 6-1.

“It didn’t go our way this time,” SU head coach Younes Limam said.

The afternoon began with promise even as Knutson coughed, sneezed and blew her nose throughout her singles match against Alyza Benotto, Brown’s No. 2. She quickly mounted a 1-0 lead that didn’t last.

As Benotto began a long run with three straight game wins, Knutson pushed shots long and struggled on her first serves. Benotto capitalized. SU’s No. 2 player attributed the unforced errors to nervousness and lack of confidence. Every time Knutson sent a shot wide or too deep, or misplaced a drop shot into the net, the Czech native slapped her left thigh with the palm of her hand or the side of her racket.

After losing a close game to go to break in the first set, Knutson sat on the bench as her legs bobbed up and down with a half-eaten banana clutched in her left hand. Associate head coach Shelley George leaned in to speak to the sophomore. Knutson’s eyes remained coldly straight ahead.

“It’s frustrating,” Knutson said. “I just couldn’t get out of that rut.”

Knutson lost the first set, 6-3, battled to win the second, 6-2, and the match went to tiebreak. By that point, Shkudun had lost her own match.

In her first singles match of the year, Shkudun almost handled Dayna Lord’s rocket returns, but not quite. The Brown senior pounded missile after missile from the back line and she beat Shkudun so thoroughly that SU’s No. 1 player acknowledged each of her opponent’s winners with a polite clap.

Shkudun captured only a few points and failed to win a game in the second set. The match ended mercifully: 7-5, 6-0. As Shkudun scowled off the court, Knutson battled on in her tiebreak.

She took an early 5-3 lead, halfway to the 10 points needed to win. But then Benotto rattled off four straight points. 7-5. When Knutson left a drop shot short in the net, Benotto celebrated her win (6-3, 2-6, 10-5).

Knutson looked at the ground and cocked her racket back, ready to smash it to pieces. She thought better of it, and released her frustration by thwacking her shoe.

“I wanna win for the fans,” Knutson said, “for my team, and mostly for myself.

“No one likes to lose.”


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