RCW: Sport Spotlight 4.27 (Tennis)
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Kansas junior Nina Khmelnitckaia’s dual-play performance has put her on a six-match winning streak in both singles and doubles.
The Moscow, Russia, native has helped lead the No. 17 Jayhawks to a 9-4 overall, 1-1 Big 12 Conference, mark on the season. Khmelnitckaia owns an 8-4 singles-dual record and is 17-8 overall. Paired with Anastasia Rychagova in doubles, the duo has a dual-match mark of 8-2 and an overall record of 15-4. As of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s most recent poll (March 20), the pair is ranked as the No. 17 team in the nation.
“I don’t really focus on whether it’s a winning or losing streak,” said Khmelnitckaia. “I just know what I have to do every time I get on the court and I do my best every time.”
Khmelnitckaia’s winning streak began February 24 against Purdue, with a 6-1 Kansas victory. After clinching the doubles point for KU with partner Rychagova, Khmelnitckaia was the first to finish her singles match. She prevailed in a first-set tiebreaker and then left her opponent scoreless in the second to claim her match, 7-6 (8), 6-0.
Hosting in-state rival No. 21 Wichita State March 2, the match was tied at 3-3 with only Khmelnitckaia left playing on court four. She easily won the first set, 6-2, before dropping her second set, 6-4. It looked like the match was finished with Khmelnitckaia down 5-2, 40-0. She came back to tie it at 5-5 and ultimately end up in a tiebreaker. She edged her opponent 12-10 in the tiebreaker to win, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (10) and clinch the overall match for Kansas, 4-3.
Up next was Gonzaga March 4 at the Jayhawk Tennis Center. The then-ranked No. 29 duo of Khmelnitckaia and Rychagova defeated the No. 47-ranked Bulldog team of Sophie Whittle and Graciela Rosas to help notch the doubles point for KU. Khmelnitckaia breezed through her singles match, 6-1, 6-1, to extend the Jayhawk lead to 3-0 for an eventual 6-1 win.
Facing No. 26 Tulsa on the road March 9, Khmelnitckaia clinched yet another match for her team in a 6-1 win. She dropped her first set, 6-4, before bouncing back to win 12-straight games and claim her match, 4-6, 6-0, 6-0. Her victory sealed the match for Kansas at 4-0 and ended its 11-match losing streak against the Golden Hurricane as well as Tulsa’s seven-match winning streak for the season.
In their first Big 12 match of the season, the Jayhawks hosted No. 38 Baylor March 12. Khmelnitckaia and Rychagova had now moved up to No. 25 in the doubles rankings and continued to pave the way for a KU doubles point. In singles, Khemlnitckaia was the first to complete her match, taking a 6-1, 6-3 victory at the No. 4 spot to help carry Kansas to a 4-1 victory.
Playing No. 12 Texas at the Jayhawk Tennis Center in her most recent match March 16, Khmelnitckaia and Rychagova downed the Longhorns’ No. 44 doubles tandem to set up court three for the doubles point. In singles, Khmelnitckaia trailed 3-1 in her first set. She then won five-straight games to win the set, 6-1. Finding herself down 5-1 in the second set, Khmelnitckaia again showed her fight by taking five-straight games. Her second set went to a tiebreaker where Khmelnitckaia won 7-4 for an overall victory of 6-3, 7-6 (4), and gave the Jayhawks a 2-1 lead in an ultimate 4-2 loss.
Up next, Khmelnitckaia looks to take her momentum on the road as her team embarks on a five-match road stint. First, Kansas will face off against No. 16 Texas Tech Friday, March 23, at 5 p.m., at the Don and Ethel McLeod Tennis Center in Lubbock, Texas.