Lady Cavs outlast Blue Devils for ACC tennis crown
Call it the fickle finger of fate.
On consecutive days at the ACC Championship, Duke senior Hanna Mar was mired in high-anxiety tiebreaker matches with a team win waffling in the balance. She was Saturday’s hero, winning against North Carolina to push the No. 6 Blue Devils into the finals against No. 7 Virginia on Sunday.
This time, the Cavaliers’ Stephanie Nauta prevailed.
Virginia won its first ACC title, 4-2, in a match lasting nearly five hours in sun-smothered conditions at Cary Tennis Park. Duke fell behind early but battled back to 3-2 with Mar, playing at No. 3, and Beatrice Capra, at No. 1, still on the courts.
“It was a tough situation to play matches like that two days in a row. It was certainly physically very taxing, and it’s unfortunate that I didn’t have a chance to win (Sunday), but it’s what happens. It’s OK,” Mar said. “We still have more matches to come, so we’ll just get better for next time and rest and prepare for the NCAA Tournament.”
Mar lost the first set to Nauta 6-3, won the second set 6-4 and fought back from a 5-3 deficit in the third set to go up 6-5 and twice reach match point, but she was unable to close out.
On the second match point Mar backed off a shot by Nauta, signaling it was out. The umpire overruled her, awarded the point to Virginia and Nauta came back to win the game and send the match to tiebreaker, which she won 7-3.
“There’s people getting overruled and calls getting changed all the time,” Duke coach Jamie Ashworth said, and he was not going to second-guess Mar’s decision. “Hanna’s not one that you question her line calls. She firmly believed the ball was out so she calls it out.”
“Hanna is a great student of the game, and she’ll learn, and know that she has to play aggressive in those situations,” Ashworth said. “She … played a little bit too defensive” on the match points, but Nauta “came up with some big shots” to pull out the match.
Duke played four matches in four days, and “it caught up with us a little bit,” Ashworth said. “Most of the matches were three sets.”
Mar and Capra, ranked No. 5 nationally in doubles, won 8-3 in No. 1 doubles. But Virginia won at 2 and 3 to take the team point and give the Cavaliers momentum heading into singles play.
“At one time you looked over and we’re getting blown out in singles, we’re down 5-0 in one, and we did a good job battling back and making it a match,” Ashworth said. “I think that says a lot about the resolve of our girls.”