In the first match of the season against the University of Tennessee, Murray State twins Eleonore and Verginie Tchakarova lost games they might have been able to win a year ago before a new NCAA tennis rule change.
Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams are adjusting to the elimination of advantage points when players are tied at 40-40. That means when two players are knotted at 40-40, or deuce, the next point scored wins the game.
In the past, a player had to win from deuce with two straight points. The change effectively creates a sudden-death situation. The new rule – dubbed “no ads” by the players and coaches – frustrated the Racers.
“The no-ads thing was getting on my nerves because five of the six games they took were because of no ads,” Verginie said.
The twins lost their doubles match 6-1, and the team lost to Tennessee 2-5.
“It was a good first match against an SEC team, and I’m very happy with that,” said first-year Head Coach Jorge Caetano.
In the second match against Mercer University, the women swept their way to a 7-0 victory.
Freshman Nancy Karaky entered the season ranked 106th nationally. She is undefeated so far.
BIG WEEKEND AHEAD
The women face three teams Saturday and Sunday at Kenlake State Park. They play Alabama A&M and Lindsey Wilson College on Saturday and Lipscomb University on Sunday.
“I’m glad we have eight girls that can play because three matches in two days is not easy,” Caetano said. “But I’m going to be able to rotate them and give everyone an opportunity to play.”
Preparing for this weekend has two elements.
“We are mentally prepared,” Eleonore said. “We will see about the physical part.”
MEN FACE TOUGH ROAD
The men’s team has played two tough opponents to start its year.
Head Coach Mel Purcell has always tried to schedule tough matches to start the season and said he wouldn’t want it any other way.
His team got swept in seven matches by the University of Louisville on Jan. 18 and Middle Tennessee State University on Jan. 16.
“The first week was definitely tough, but I think it will help us in the future,” said senior Max McClean. “And we’re not going to be playing that good of teams for the rest of the year.”
A challenge for the men’s team is roster depth. With only six players eligible, there is little rest for players. By Saturday, they will have played three teams in three straight days. That means each player will have to compete in one doubles match and one singles match per day for a total of six each for the weekend.
“We are just having to survive you know, because we play three matches in a row this weekend,” Purcell said. “That will be the tough part where nobody gets a rest.”
McClean said he hopes all the training they’ve put in over Winter Break and all year will help them get through the weekend.
“This is probably going to be the toughest stretch of the season, playing six matches in three days,” McClean said.
As for the new “no-ads” rule, he said it gives players less margin for error.
“So you just have to concentrate on each point now,” McClean said. “You can’t take any of them lightly.”
After their match against Abilene Christian at Kenlake State Park on Thursday, the men traveled to Memphis for matches Friday against the University of Memphis and University of Tennessee-Chatanooga on Saturday.
Story by Blake Bernier, Contributing writer