North Texas Daily

Chemistry in doubles crucial for Mean Green success

Chemistry in doubles crucial for Mean Green success

Chemistry in doubles crucial for Mean Green success
February 05
16:49 2019

Every match for the Mean Green tennis begins with doubles play, consisting of three pairs of Mean Green players facing off against opposing teams. The team that wins two of the three matches gets the sole doubles point for the match, making success in doubles crucial for overall victory.

Head coach Sujay Lama said that the success has appeared in a variety of doubles partners.

“We’ve had success with different players,” head coach Sujay Lama said. “When I’m looking at doubles, I’m looking at when we’re playing for a championship, which team is ultimately at the end is gonna give us that victory for doubles. Which team is gonna win us the doubles point so we are in the position to win a championship.”

This mindset has led to different lineups over the years, despite the Mean Green keeping a similar group of players. That consistency has given Lama and his staff the chance to see what works best for the team.

“This is a veteran group, we have had so many different combinations,” Lama said. “We’ve got a great number of data on many different teams. We know the success they’ve had, we also know the struggles they’ve had and we also know the chemistry.”

UNT senior Maria Kononova plays a doubles match against Abilene Christian University on Jan. 15, 2019. Image by Will Baldwin.

So far this season, Lama has stuck to a lineup with seniors Maria Kononova and Mingying Liang in one pair and juniors Ivana Babic and Alexandra Heczey in another. Senior Tamuna Kutubidze has seen her doubles partner change throughout the year, alternating between sophomore Nidhi Surapaneni and junior Haruka Sasaki.

“We’ve tried Tamuna with Nidhi and they’ve shown some good signs,” Lama said. “Haruka has played with Tamuna and they’ve had some success, but we’re still in a searching mode.”

Lama suggested that part of staying in a searching mode may mean returning to an old combination of Kononova and Kutubidze playing in the doubles together. The pair went 24-4 in their sophomore year, which is still a school record for doubles wins and that dominance is part what separated them.

“You’ve got two heavyweights basically,” Lama said. “They are like super players. Their presence is so critical for us and so one of the thoughts was to split it up so we can spread the wealth.”

Until an official change from Lama, the two will stay in their current pairings, where Kononova has found continued success with her fellow senior in Liang. The two are 4-1 on the year, with the one loss coming in their most recent match against Texas Christian.

“We just have good chemistry between each other,” Kononova said. “Overall, we’re not afraid to face difficulties and we know how to deal with them.”

Kononova and Liang play in the No. 1 doubles slot for North Texas. The number one slot goes to a tennis team’s best combination although the aim is for balance in all three lineups.

“You can’t just be only counting on one spot,” Lama said. “We’ve got to count on every spot. Let’s say you have a bad day at one, you’ve got to win at two and three. Let’s say your opponent has an incredible day at three, you have to win at one and two. You have to rely on all three teams at all times and hope that two will deliver on that particular day.”

Outside of Kononova and Liang, the Mean Green are 4-5 in doubles on the year. In the last match the Babic and Hezcey duo had the only win for the doubles and North Texas on the day in the No.2 slot.

I’ve really felt like the two is gonna be a team that’s a force to reckon with,” Lama said. “They just need to find a little more consistency, but two is a team that can beat any given team, any given day. We just have to continue to ride their ups and downs, but I think they are the team that’s gonna be a force to deal with.”

That potential force has a long way to go before it reaches the heights of Kononova and Kutubidze, but Lama’s belief in their potential and the amount of time they’ve been growing in the program together gives the two a chance to be great.

“We’ve [been] playing since freshman year,” Hezcey said. “We got to know each other pretty well and we have a really good chemistry nowadays. I really believe in that especially and we had a really good game against [Texas Christian] and I think that will just move us forward to bigger wins.”

Babic and Hezcey were not given the chance to add another win to their resume last Saturday against Texas El-Paso, as the doubles were canceled due to weather restraints. Doubles play will continue for North Texas’ next match against Sam Houston State this Friday at 2 p.m.

Featured Image: UNT Senior Tamuna Kutubidze hits the ball during a singles match against Abilene Christian University on Jan. 15 Image by: Will Baldwin. 

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Caleb Akpan

Caleb Akpan

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