Syracuse Tennis Early Season Outlook
By Samuel Reis | @SamuelReisTV
Citrus TV Tennis Beat Reporter
Syracuse Tennis entered the season with all returning players and the smallest possible roster, six players. Despite no new faces and no room for injuries, the start to the 2023 campaign has been a promising one.
The Orange opened up the season with four consecutive home matches at Drumlins, earning a win in all four. Those wins were against NJIT, Boston University, Cornell, and Delaware.
S.U. is coming off a 10-11 season in 2022, including a subpar 4-9 record in A.C.C. play. After a strong start in non-conference action this season, I will tell you everything you need to know about this year’s team. Here is a look into how each doubles team and how each singles player is looking early on in the season.
ZEYNEP ERMAN & MIYUKA KIMOTO (#1 DOUBLES)
Erman and Kimoto were asserted as the #1 doubles team from the very start by Head Coach Younes Limam. The pairing has gone 3-1 through its first four matches, finding very good chemistry rather quickly. Last season, both of these players had drastically different experiences in doubles. Kimoto played plenty of doubles in her freshman year, taking part in sixteen matches alongside Polina Kozyreva. That duo impressed enough to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Erman, on the other hand, only played in two doubles matches. Between the success of Kimoto and Kozyreva last season as a duo and the lack of experience in doubles for Erman, this #1 doubles team might seem like an odd selection. However, the first three matches showed a lot of promise. While they were handled quite comfortably by Delaware’s Adel-Byanu Abidullin and Eliza Askarova, it seems as though Limam still has high hopes for the pairing. He will likely stick with them at #1 doubles for the next few non-conference matchups to see how they fare before the A.C.C. slate arrives.
INES FONTE & POLINA KOZYREVA (#2 DOUBLES)
This is another new pairing for the Orange. Fonte played exclusively with Kanapatskaya last year while Kozyreva played with Kimoto and Sofya Treshcheva, who graduated. The duo has played together in three of the four duals this year, going 2-1. A notable win for Fonte and Kozyreva early on in the season came against Cornell’s Emma Baker and Lan Mi. That was a 6-1 result, dominated from start to finish. Their one loss came against Delaware’s Maryia Hrynashka and Alina Vasilenko. That was a hard fought 6-4 defeat that decided the doubles point in the dual.
SHIORI ITO & VIKTORIYA KANAPATSKAYA (#3 DOUBLES)
They might be #3 doubles, but Shiori and Kanapatskaya have been reliable to start the season. The sophomore and junior have played together in three of the four duals, winning all three matches they were paired up for. Ito mainly played with Treshcheva last season and Kanapatskaya primarily played with Fonte last year. You would not know it based on the way Ito and Kanpatskaya have been playing together this season. This has been the most dominant doubles team thus far. In fact, after they were split up for the dual against Boston University, they came back with a roar in the next two duals, winning 6-1 and 6-2. It is safe to assume that Younes Limam will keep that pair united going forward if they can continue to play at that level.
MIYUKA KIMOTO (#1 SINGLES)
Taking over the #1 singles spot for Syracuse has not necessarily been easy going for Miyuka Kimoto. The season started off strong for her, winning the opening two matches. However, she has since dropped the last two, with a notable caveat. That caveat would be Kimoto suffering an apparent elbow injury in her much anticipated match with Cornell’s 125th ranked singles player in the country, Lan Mi. That injury forced her to retire down 4-6, 1-0. Coach Limam said after the dual that she retired from that match for precautionary reasons. Two days later, Kimoto returned to the court with a small brace on her elbow against Delaware’s Abidullin. Despite a valiant effort, she fell in straight sets 6-2, 7-6 (7-5). How much her injury affected her play is purely speculation, but something to watch out for going forward.
ZEYNEP ERMAN (#2 SINGLES)
Erman has been excellent for Syracuse, winning all four single matches thus far. For the senior, it has been a career of ups and downs as she has dealt with injuries over the years. It is only fitting that she has shown resilience in some of her matches already to maintain a perfect singles record. The Turk already has three more singles wins than she had the entirety of last season, when she went 1-5. Her performances have certainly been eye-catching and she has already shown that she can find ways to win in a variety of ways. Her first win consisted of a nail biting super tiebreak to decide the match after dropping the opening set. She also won a dramatic second set tiebreak to take care of Cornell’s Lauren Stein in straight sets. If she can continue to play at such a high level and remain healthy, it could be a true statement season for Erman after everything she has gone through over the course of her Syracuse career.
VIKTORIYA KANAPATSKAYA (#3 SINGLES)
That is not a typo. Kanapatskaya is indeed playing at #3 singles this season. Now a junior, it is fair to say that Kanapatskaya was a star for the Orange as an underclassmen. After occupying the #1 an #2 spots in singles throughout last season, it was a bit of an eye opener seeing Limam put her on #3 singles in the season opener against NJIT. With that being said, the new placement has not fazed her one bit. The Belarusian is 4-0 through her first four matches and it should not come as too much of a surprise.
POLINA KOZYREVA (#4 SINGLES)
In terms of quality of play, Kozyreva has been the most impressive and efficient player in singles for the Orange. As a matter of fact, she has already “climbed up the ladder” for a lack of a better term. The senior was placed at #5 singles in the first two duals of the season but has since been moved up to the number four spot, and with good reason. She remains undefeated in singles play and has won all four of her matches in straight sets. Even more impressive, her singles match has been the first one to conclude in three of the four duals thus far! While she might be slightly under the radar playing on a lower court, that should not be the case for much longer. Her opponents have been no match for her and just like Erman, Kozyreva is determined to make a statement in her final season at S.U.
SHIORI ITO (#5 SINGLES)
Due to the stellar play of Kozyreva, Ito has dropped down to the number 5 spot in singles. The sophomore is 3-1 but has won her last two, including a lengthy 7-5, 6-4 straight sets victory over Delaware’s Hrynashka. The only loss suffered by Ito was a tight decision against Boston University’s Kaitlin Tan in a super tiebreak.
INES FONTE (#6 SINGLES)
She might be #6 singles, but Fonte is a perfect 4-0. The Portugal native has quietly won every one of her matches in straight sets. She has played consistently well against each opponent she has faced. Every match, the junior seems to go on a streak where she breaks serve and takes over a set in a timely manner. She will look to continue her solid form into some more difficult matches that await.
The teams Syracuse have met so far might not be of the highest quality, but a 4-0 start should give this team some necessary confidence going into the final stretch of non-conference duals. Of course playing in the best conference in the country means notably harder opponents are on the horizon. Additionally, having just six players on the roster means that it is crucial for the Cuse to avoid any significant injuries. For now, the Orange are taking it one dual at a time.
Next up for S.U. is Drexel in its first away dual of the season on Saturday at 11 a.m. Make sure to follow my twitter @SamuelReisTV for continued coverage of Syracuse Tennis throughout the rest of the season!