Georgia’s Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist live to fight another day.
In the first day of doubles play at the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships on Thursday, Gullickson and Gilchrist unleashed a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Duke’s Beatrice Capra and Rachel Kahan, advancing to today’s round of 16.
Gullickson and Gilchrist — ranked 27th in the country and unseeded in the tournament — will play at 2:30 p.m. today against Michigan’s Emina Bektas and Brooke Bolender, ranked 11th nationally and also unseeded in the tournament.
Bektas and Bolender upset fourth-seeded Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria of Southern California 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 on Wednesday. The two doubles teams met on Feb. 12 in the consolation round of the ITA National Championships in Charlottesville, Va., with the Wolverines taking an 8-2 victory in a match Georgia won by a 5-2 score.
Thursday’s victory was particularly sweet for Gullickson, who was unceremoniously dropped in the first round of the singles tournament on Wednesday by Southern California’s Santamaria by a 6-3, 6-2 score.
“Yesterday was pretty upsetting,” said the senior, one of the Bulldogs’ most decorated players in recent years. “I didn’t want to end my senior year here first out in singles and first out in doubles. Nadja and I have goals to make it to the quarters to be All-Americans, and we want to win it, too.”
Gilchrist, also a senior, said she and Gullickson conferred before the match and came out with a renewed determination.
“We talked and said, ‘Let’s go out there and try to do our best and try to win the doubles tournament,’ since Chelsey lost yesterday,” said Gilchrist, who with Gullickson reached the NCAA doubles semifinals in 2010 and the quarterfinals in 2011. “This is our last tournament, so why not go out with a bang?”
“That’s some of their best doubles all year,” said Georgia coach Jeff Wallace. “I thought they played fantastic, start to finish. They got broke a couple of games in the second set to get (Duke) back in the match and tie it up, but I thought they really played well.”
The Bulldog tandem — the only Georgia entries in the 32-team doubles draw — began the match with a bang, taking a quick 4-0 lead in the first set and claiming the victory in rapid fashion, breaking Duke on game point.
Gullickson and Gilchrist also jumped out to a good start in the second set, leading 5-2 with Gullickson serving before Capra (who is the No. 2-ranked singles player in the country) and Kahan wiggled their way back into the match, breaking the Georgia seniors two times to knot the score at 5-5. But with a potential third set staring them in the face, Gullickson and Gilchrist buckled down and collected their last two points.
“When Chelsey’s on, she’s tough to beat, and she came out after her disappointing singles (match) yesterday and didn’t want that to happen in doubles today,” said Duke coach Jamie Ashworth. “And with Nadja being a senior, I just think they didn’t want that to be their last match.”
After Duke’s brief flirtation with the possibility of a third set, Gullickson said she and her partner zeroed in on the task at hand.
“We just kind of focused back in,” said Gullickson, who has not played doubles with Gilchrist since April 1, when they were defeated 8-3 at Vanderbilt. “We might have taken it too lightly when we were up 6-2, 5-2, and made some stupid mistakes. But we got it back together and luckily we closed it out.”
“At the end, we got up 5-2 and got broke a couple of times but (Duke) played well in those games,” added Wallace. “They made balls. Kahan was hitting deep and lobbing well, but we regrouped and got the break and then held there at the end. Overall, I thought it was a good match for them.”
Gullickson said that facing Duke last week in the quarterfinals of the team tournament was helpful in preparing for Wednesday’s match.
“I was kind of familiar with this team since we played them last week during teams,” she said. “We came out and played great and hopefully we can do the same tomorrow. … I couldn’t get singles this week, so maybe we can get doubles.”