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Sunday, Jan 20, 2019 at 10:56 am

Syracuse Tennis Wins Season Opener

By Brad Klein

CitrusTV Tennis Beat Reporter

Last year at this time, Guzal Yusupova was more worried about a sunburn than a snowstorm. She was at Washington State gearing up for a 20-9 season that would ultimately put her on the map as an All-PAC-12 honorable mention. Now she is in the Syracuse tundra, but her game has not cooled off. In fact, her burning passion to contribute to her new team is only heating up.

“The most important thing for me [is] to give a point to my team so we can win the match,” Yusupova said.

In her first appearance in an Orange uniform, she won her singles match 6-3, 6-0 over Brown’s Julia Newman. That win was one of seven on the day for the Orange as No. 24 Syracuse (1-0, 0-0 ACC) swept Brown (0-1, 0-0 Ivy League) on Saturday.

The junior’s first contribution to the team was on the doubles court though, with an impressive victory alongside Dina Hegab. She was paired with three different partners during the Fall. However, she believes she might have found a home on the same court as Hegab.

“We feel each other and we know how to play. So we try to play better each game,” Yusupova said.

Hegab and Yusupova defeated Brown’s Taylor Cosme and Ryan Peus 6-4.

The entire roster started their 2019 campaign strong, showing shades of their historic 2018. After leading the Orange to their highest ranking last year, Head Coach Younes Limam understands how important it is to begin on a high note.

“It’s our first match of the season. We talked quite a bit about the importance of starting with the right tempo, with playing aggressive tennis,” Limam said. “I know that the team enjoys playing at home, and they feed off the energy from the crowd and everything else. So I’m very glad with how we took care of business from start to finish.”

While the scoreboard says that the Orange dominated the duel, Saturday’s victory did not come without a fight. No. 8 Gabriela Knutson was challenged by unranked singles opponent Devon Jack. However, it may have just been growing pains for the senior. She says that during this match, she improved upon one of her achilles heels from last season.

“I’m really happy with how composed I stayed, and that’s really important to me for this semester,” Knutson said. “I really want to be able to bounce back really quickly after every single point and that’s what I was working on. That’s why I was able to win and keep my composure the whole time.”

Knutson won her singles match 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

One of the most notable victories for the Orange was Knutson’s double match though. She and Miranda Ramirez picked up where they left off last season with a 7-5 victory. In 2018, they became the first ever All-American doubles duo for Syracuse.

“We have been practicing a lot this week. It’s really fun,” Knutson said. “Even if I’m having a little trouble on the court she can pick me up and I can do the same for her. I think we have a really good dynamic. It was just a lot of fun to play with her again.”

Syracuse is now undefeated in their last five matches against Ivy League opponents. They are scheduled to host Columbia on Sunday, 11 A.M. at Drumlins Country Club.

bwklein@syr.edu | @BradKlein15