Tennis

Syracuse tennis comes back to beat Pittsburgh, 4-3, for first ACC victory of 2017

Courtesy of Syracuse Athletics

Dina Hegab won her singles match on Friday afternoon, helping SU to its first ACC win of the year.

The day could not have started much worse for Gabriela Knutson and Miranda Ramirez. Shot after shot flew wide, long or into the net. On one shot, Knutson swung too far under a ball, which flew high and long, almost hitting the ceiling before it sailed long off the back wall. She shouted after one of just many unforced errors in a doubles point Knutson and Ramirez dropped, 6-1.

But Syracuse (3-6, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) recovered quickly in singles play to secure the Orange’s first ACC win. Behind big turnarounds from Knutson and Ramirez, SU came back to defeat Pittsburgh (2-4, 0-3), 4-3.

Syracuse’s second doubles pairing of Anna Shkudun and Maria Tritou dropped the second doubles match and Pitt’s Audrey Ann Blakely and Clara Lucas secured the second doubles victory, 6-3. After the doubles portion of the match, Syracuse huddled up as a team and tried to put the doubles point behind them.

“We said, ‘We don’t need the doubles (point) today and just go into the singles and play with a lot of heart and intensity,’” SU head coach Younes Limam said of that huddle.

Knutson reiterated that message, pointing out that Syracuse has struggled to win the doubles point and that she and her teammates don’t relent in singles.

Ramirez won her second singles matchup over Blakely, 7-6, 6-2. Knutson took third singles by the score of 6-4, 6-2. Libi Mesh and Dina Hegab secured victory in fifth and sixth singles for Syracuse, respectively, with Mesh winning 6-2, 6-2, and Hegab winning 6-1, 6-2.

Knutson came out in her singles match firing on all cylinders. No longer were her shots errant. Three courts over, Ramirez found the same success. Crosscourt backhands stayed within the lines. Drop shots made it over the net instead of being denied by the net’s tape. Forehand smashes off of weak returns flew by the opponents for more Syracuse points.

“I think the biggest thing was just focusing more on my timing,” Ramirez said. “Just getting the timing right on my groundstrokes.”

In doubles, Ramirez hit her one-handed backhand into the net on multiple occasions. With an improved focus on her timing, she won many of her points in her singles match by hitting that same backhand just out of reach of Blake. Limam spent much of Ramirez’s doubles match right along her sideline, whispering advice and offering encouragement. The biggest key for Ramirez was to win the big points more often than her opponent.

Hegab and Mesh proved just as crucial in Syracuse’s victory. They outlasted their opponents on rallies, waiting for Pitt’s players to make errors. Both won points with strong forehands from the baseline and at the net. In Syracuse’s tight win, both Hegab and Mesh were as crucial as Knutson and Ramirez. Moving on from a tough start helped Syracuse to emerge as the winner.

“We talk a lot about having a short memory,” Limam said. “Sometimes doubles, when you wait too long for things to happen, then you start playing catch up, and we don’t want to do that.”

The day started rough for Knutson and Ramirez. But they turned it around and Syracuse got its first conference win of the season.

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