Tennis

Miranda Ramirez rides strong baseline play to 10-match win streak

Courtesy of SU Athletics

Miranda Ramirez’s path to a 10-match win streak has been through the baseline.

Miranda Ramirez was riding a nine-game singles win streak when SU head coach Younes Limam quipped last Wednesday, “Don’t jinx it now.”

His worries were unnecessary. On Sunday, the freshman plowed through her first No. 1 singles match for the Orange. Ramirez’s face remained determinedly blank as she downed Georgia Tech’s best player and No. 46 Rasheeda McAdoo, in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.

The 5-foot-3 Ramirez had every answer and return for the much bigger and stronger McAdoo. Ramirez came out unscathed and pushed her consecutive wins to 10.

“I felt really good from the back,” Ramirez said Sunday, “and I was able to move (McAdoo) around a lot, which I don’t think she’s too comfortable with.”

This season, Ramirez has developed into a rising talent for a Syracuse (5-8, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) team that is otherwise struggling. She has dependably won points all season, which the Orange needs again on Friday at 3 p.m. against Louisville (13-5, 2-4). Ramirez, a freshman, consistently overcomes her weakness at the net and susceptibility to drop shots by playing mistake-free tennis. That, along with strong baseline play and patience that baits her opponents into errors, enables her success.

“Obviously, her strengths are playing from the baseline and dictating play,” Limam said, “but we’re trying to add a little more diversity to her game.”

Ramirez’ 11-1 singles record projects dominance, and so do her straight set wins. But she isn’t a stereotypical No. 1 singles power player. Her small frame can’t serve blisters and her returns don’t drop jaws.

Unable to out-muscle opponents, Ramirez can’t afford to beat herself, and she hasn’t yet. Rarely does she miss long or wide and, though no statistics are available, double faults have never played an important role in her home matches. Comfortable playing in long rallies, Ramirez stays amid long rallies and fires return after return until an exasperated opponent sends a shot long or wide.

“It’s a very good style of play,” Limam said. “It’s something she does really well … playing on her terms.”

Ramirez also employs long cross-court or down the line rallies as she steadily works her opponent to one side of the court. Once she believes her opponent cannot run back across quick enough, Ramirez rifles a return to the opposite corner. This ploy worked against McAdoo, who found herself constantly stretching for a ball just out of reach.

Relying so heavily on the baseline, though, creates vulnerability: drop shots. Fortunately for Ramirez, aggression around the net presents a simple remedy.

“We’re just trying to have her get a little bit more comfortable finishing points at the net,” Limam said.

Despite her wins, the freshman has been working on playing at the net and judging when to leave the baseline, said Limam. Last Wednesday, Ramirez spent over an hour in a one-on-one session focused entirely on playing closer to the divider.

“It’s just trying to maintain my level,” Ramirez said.

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