Preview: West Coast Trip
By Tommy Sletten, Athletic Communications Student Intern
Experience and chemistry is quintessential to any doubles tennis pairing, and Caitlyn Merzbacher and Mehvish Safdar have all that and more.
“Caitlyn and Mehvish have been our best doubles spot so far and it speaks volumes because, at the No. 1 spot, you’re playing all the best pairings in the country,” head coach Catrina Thompson said. “They've known each other for a long time and, with them both being upperclassmen, being able to lead the way is big for us.”
Merzbacher and Safdar have gotten off to a blazing-hot start this year, going 8-2 in the No. 1 doubles spot, their season thus far being bookended with two four-match winning streaks.
More importantly, the two look comfortable and poised on the court together, truly playing like two friends who celebrate each other's successes and play off each other. After every point it’s a handshake or a high five, and a cheer after a win.
“I think the chemistry is a huge part of doubles, getting along with your partner,” Safdar said. “Not only do we know each others game styles really well, but we also know each other really well. It definitely helps our dynamic on the court because we’re so close, we’re so comfortable playing with each other.”
The two began playing with each other as doubles partners when Merzbacher was a freshman in 2016 in the No. 3 spot, and then against in 2016-17 in the No. 1 spot. They learned together, playing through the learning curve, going 21-24 in duals, and 24-25 overall, in the first two years together.
This season, the experienced senior/junior duo have found their groove, and credit experience as one of the factors in their performance, as well as something that helps them face the daunting schedule of a No. 1 doubles pairing.
“We’ve played a lot together, and that just builds confidence with each other,” Safdar said. “I don’t think it fazes us as much playing at the No. 1 spot, because we know how we play. Before our matches we have a clear-cut game style, so as long as we’re focusing on the match and knowing how we play, it isn’t too much pressure”
Most importantly, the two are comfortable with each other, they know each others’ game and have mutual trust in each other. The trust keeps them grounded and can give them a shot against any other team they will face.
“Sometimes the emotions get high and it becomes stressful, but when I’m on the court playing with Mehvish it’s reassuring,” Merzbacher said. “When we’re having fun and playing our best we can beat anyone.”
The Gophers will take on Washingotn State and Eastern Washington this weekend in Pullman. Be sure to follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you don't miss any content this season.
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