Chan, Dy Look To Recapture Doubles Magic At NCAAs
May 24, 2011
SEATTLE - When the NCAA Singles Championship begins on Wednesday, Denise Dy and Venise Chan will have lofty expectations as both are among the Top-16 seeded players for the second year in a row. But for the first time the duo also earned a spot in the NCAA Doubles Championship draw, out of 32 teams, and while Dy and Chan are known quantities in the singles draw, they will be looking to surprise some people in doubles.
Why are two of the nation's elite singles players considered something of a wildcard when teaming up for doubles? Because Chan and Dy have not won a doubles match together since February, a span of almost exactly three months by the time the tourney starts this week. Chan and Dy began the dual season on fire, running off a 13-0 record to begin the season, including six wins over ranked opponents. But the Huskies were struggling to win the doubles point, often winning at No. 1 but losing the second and third doubles matches to fall behind 1-0.
So, a change needed to be made, and the Chan-Dy duo, which had gone from unranked all the way up to No. 6 nationally, was split up in early March. Chan stayed at No. 1 doubles to team with Samantha Smith while Dy dropped to No. 2 to play with Aleksandra Krsljanin. That enabled the Huskies to pick up doubles point victories over Washington State, Arizona, and Sacramento State down the stretch, all of which ended in 4-3 victories for a Husky squad beset by injuries that needed to stave off the upsets to hang on to its NCAA tourney bid. Dy and Krsljanin even broke into the doubles rankings themselves in less than 10 matches together, with a season-high of 53rd.
All the while, Dy and Chan never fell out of the Top-15 in the national rankings despite going weeks without a win. The strength of their early season wins and the ranking points they amassed prove more than enough to hold up for the rest of the year. They slipped a bit, but still ended the regular season ranked 13th nationally. And this week, for the first time since March, Chan and Dy got back into the swing of things as doubles partners on the practice court.
"We've been playing a lot against (coaches) Damon and Irina in practice, but when we work hard individually in singles then it shouldn't be that hard to play well in doubles," says Chan, relaxed in her view of the tournament on Monday in the Nordstrom Tennis Center lobby.
This is the first NCAA Doubles Championship bid for Chan, but Dy played in the tourney a year ago with Joyce Ardies, falling in the first round to the No. 1 overall seeds from Tennessee. She has now been nationally ranked with three different partners and claims to be more of a natural doubles player than she is in singles, and as the fourth-ranked player in singles, that's saying something.
"I could play with anybody," says Dy. "When it comes to chemistry, of course there are going to be some people that I adapt better with, Joyce being one of them. But it's not like I don't adapt with Venise at all. We started the year out well. This weekend it really depends less on chemistry but just how we both play. If Venise gets that fire that she had at the beginning of the year then I can be a solid rock for her and just do my job and hopefully we'll be fine."
Early in the year during their initial doubles run, the talk always seemed to center around Chan's improved doubles play and her newfound desire and enjoyment on the doubles court. Chan's net play has steadily improved during her four year career, and her strong return game make UW especially dangerous returning serve.
With this being the final college tournament of Chan's brilliant career, motivation doesn't figure to be an issue.
"I'm putting expectations on both (singles and doubles), because since it's my last tournament I might as well put everything in," Chan says with a laugh. She agrees that her mental approach was different this year and wants to find that zone again this week. "In the beginning I was really pumped to play well in doubles and win some matches. I have to have that mindset and just be confident and knowing that I have a good partner that can help me do my best."
With seeds to defend in singles compared to their wildcard status in doubles, it might be assumed the two are not putting the pressure on their doubles run as they might be for singles, but Dy says that's not exactly the case.
"There's expectations for doubles at least for me. I definitely want to reach at least the quarterfinals in the next two years," though she admits that doubles is inherently more fun for her. "Doubles is less pressure for everybody though, because it's four people on a court ... I mean who doesn't have fun when it comes to doubles?"
Chan did not always seem to have fun with it, just wanting to get through and get on to her singles match. But Dy again says that the factor in their early success was Chan inspiring her, rather than the other way around.
"She was pumping me up really good," Dy says of her partner. "I just want that fire in her to flame up, and if that happens in the tournament then we'll be good."