Kansas won in an underhanded fashion Thursday at the NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Doubles Championship in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Oh, but don't worry, nothing nefarious happened.
KU juniors Nina Khmelnitckaia and Anastasia Rychagova beat Central Florida’s Ksenia Kuznetsova and Maria Martinez, 6-4, 5-7, 10-4. The victory came despite Rychagova having to serve underhanded.
In December, Rychagova broke a rib, which required five weeks of rest, and when she returned to the court, the worst seemed behind her. However, on March 16, she re-injured the rib during a match, so her coaches extended the recovery time. Rychagova was back in game action for the first time when she used the unusual serve.
The Jayhawks’ duo lost each of Rychagova’s service points until the final point of the match in the third set, which was a 10-point tie-breaker.
“I've seen very few injuries like she has dealt with over the last five six months, so very few times has that happened,” Kansas tennis coach Todd Chapman said in a phone interview. “I’m just excited she got to play, and she’s excited, and Nina was excited to play.”
Rychagova can hit overhead shots, but it will be a few weeks before she can return to serving overhead. But by then the season would be over, so she’s doing something unorthodox in an effort to play.
“She’s one that it makes us nervous at times because she does want to be out there so bad that we hope she’s telling us the truth (about the rib),” Chapman said. ”There’s a reason she was the No. 1 player in singles for four months. She’s extremely tough and extremely motivated.”
Chapman also praised Khmelnitckaia for working well with her teammate despite their lack of time together in competition.
“I think they just have a great chemistry on the court,” Chapman said. “They’re both intense, but they work well together. We knew they’d play hard and be into it and be tough competitors.”
Khmelnitckaia and Rychagova were eliminated Friday, losing 6-1, 6-2 to Vanderbilt’s No. 1 doubles team in the round of 16.