Guzal Yusupova, Dina Hegab’s doubles connection provides stability for Syracuse

first_img Comments Published on March 19, 2019 at 10:47 am Contact Andrew: arcrane@syr.edu | @CraneAndrew Guzal Yusupova and Dina Hegab briefly huddled together in the middle of the court against then-No. 19 Virginia. The two checked in down a break — one or two quick words and a high-five — and Hegab jogged back to the net, Yusupova the baseline.Following their exchange, Yusupova chased a Virginia service return deep into the corner and launched a backhand shot. Back-and-forth she raced from corner-to-corner, before Hegab, who tracked each rally at the net, finished the point with an uncontested volley. But their chemistry didn’t always click like that.Before a constant pairing with Hegab, Yusupova, fresh off a transfer from Washington State, didn’t have a regular doubles partner. Last season, she had amassed a 21-2 record with WSU’s Tiffany Mylonas, coming more “naturally” than at Syracuse.“I needed more time with Dina to feel each other better,” Yusupova said. “Sometimes, when you see the person, you have to work together. With Tiffany, it just worked out.”After SU head coach Younes Limam experimented with three different pairings in the fall, he chose Hegab as Yusupova’s counterpart. The two have worked on understanding each other better, learning to maximize the other’s strengths and compensate weaknesses, and have become a reliable presence at the bottom of No. 32 Syracuse’s (10-6, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) doubles lineup.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSusie Teuscher | Digital Design EditorBefore transferring to the Orange for a multitude of reasons, Yusupova teamed with Mylonas, who was coming from the University of Louisiana Monroe. As a freshman, Yusupova couldn’t find a consistent partner. But with Mylonas, their play clicked.“I was just trying to make her easiest points, so she could just finish at the net,” Yusupova said of playing with Mylonas.Mylonas was better at the net, and the two shined most when Yusupova patrolled the back line. They went on to win their first 13 matches to start the season and had an opportunity to slide up to the top spot this season.But Yusupova departed from the Cougars, and her search for a new doubles partner began at SU. In the fall, she started with Sofya Golubovskaya at the Milwaukee Tennis Classic, and they made it to the semifinals. The next week, it was Hegab, and they won the West Point Invitational A-flight doubles bracket. But Limam changed her partner again, so two weeks later, Gabriela Knutson and Yusupova played at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Northeast Regionals.“It’s definitely tough, but we tried to play some different things,” Yusupova said, at the beginning of the spring season, about her fall doubles partners.In the final tournament of Yusupova’s fall season, she paired with Hegab again. And despite losing all three of their matches that week, they were together in Syracuse’s first match against Brown in the spring.Limam noticed that Hegab’s “strong serve” set up Yusupova for easy volleys at the net and noticed Yusupova’s power shots on service returns set up Hegab, too. So in the final game of their first spring match together, up 5-4, Hegab sliced an ace in between Brown’s doubles pairing. Two points later, Yusupova clinched the match with a powerful backhand groundstroke. They had complementing strengths in the fall but just needed to mesh.Two months and 14 matches later, the improvements are evident, Yusupova said. They don’t need to double check the line every point. Now, it’s instincts. They know “what to do and when to it” with each other, Hegab said.Last Monday against Florida Atlantic University, Yusupova and Hegab were down a break. First doubles were close to winning, but Golubovskaya and Sonya Treshcheva were down at the second slot. For SU to get on the board, Yusupova and Hegab recovered, rattling off victories in the next four games and the Orange clinched the doubles point.In a season where SU’s doubles play has been inconsistent, Hegab and Yusupova have provided stability to the back of its doubles lineup. The two were a work in progress until the beginning of the season. But in recent weeks, it’s proved to pay off.“We just understand each other better, we understand each other’s strengths better,” Hegab said. “I think we are helping each other on the court and playing off each other really well now.”center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img