Syracuse Tennis Looks to Stay Hot Heading Into ITA Kick-Off Weekend

Friday, Jan 25, 2019 at 10:50 am by Sports Editor

By Brad Klein

CitrusTV Tennis Reporter

The last time Syracuse traveled to Oxford, Mississippi, was for last season’s NCAA tournament. However, it was a quick trip for the Orange as Syracuse fell to Wichita State 4-1 in the first round.

This weekend No. 24 Syracuse returns to Oxford for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. Although it’s early in the season, Syracuse head coach Younes Limam says his team needs to keep its foot on the gas.

“We need to play as hard as we can play and fight,” Limam said. “That’s our main goal. Don’t pay attention to our opponents. Try to control the things we can control. If we go in with that mindset, good things will happen.”

Limam’s squad enters this weekend with their fourth 2-0 start in his five seasons at the helm. Syracuse handled Brown in the season opener with a 7-0 victory. That was Washington State transfer Guzal Yusupova’s Syracuse debut. She won her singles match in straight sets and seemed to fit nicely with Dina Hegab in their doubles victory.

“Adding someone like Guzal to our roster is huge,” Limam said after the Brown victory. “She has the experience. She played in a very strong conference, the PAC 12, and just seeing her coming in and playing with a lot of confidence. She is a gamer. She is a competitor. She hates to lose. She set the tone from the start.”

Yusupova has been a nice addition to a Syracuse program that is moving in the right direction. The Orange improved its record by nine games last season under the leadership of Gabriela Knutson. She led Syracuse in 2018 with a 21-5 record in singles matches. Knutson is 2-0 in singles matches this year. Limam says Knutson’s success comes from her experience and the way she competes.

“She competes extremely hard,” Limam said. “She is a very powerful player. She is a player that plays with a lot of positive emotions and she fights for every point.”

Knutson had six victories over top-50 opponents last season en route to becoming the first Syracuse players awarded with Singles All-American honors since 1995.

No. 24 Syracuse (2-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) first ITA Kick-Off Weekend match is against Michigan (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Orange will face either Purdue (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) or No. 12 Ole Miss (0-0, 0-0 SEC). | @BradKlein15