Tennis

Dina Hegab shows promise at fifth and sixth singles

Codie Yan | Staff Photographer

Syracuse's team success has mirrored Dina Hegab's individual success after dropping from the third singles spots.

It’s hard to miss Dina Hegab winning a point. The Syracuse sophomore accompanies every win in singles play with loud screams of “Point!” or “Mine!” and a fist pump. Hegab’s volume has not changed throughout the season but her frequency has.

Hegab began the season struggling as high as the third singles spot, but lately has settled in at either fifth or sixth singles. Her play has stabilized through better mechanics in her knees and improved control of her high-strung emotions. In her last 13 matches, played exclusively at the latter spots, Hegab has compiled a record of 7-6 for Syracuse (7-12, 4-8 Atlantic Coast).

It’s a marked improvement for the Giza, Egypt, native, who started the season 2-4 in singles, the same record the Orange had as a team. Since, she has found consistency against lower-in-the-lineup opponents.

“It definitely affects (me) when (I) don’t play good or lose a match,” Hegab said. “But we try to have a short memory and just get over it and start working again.”

SU head coach Younes Limam and Hegab emphasized the bulk of her improvement has come from decreasing her unforced errors. Hegab attributed the decline in errors to moving well and bending her knees more.

Early in the season, Hegab said she had a tendency to remain upright when hitting returns. She didn’t fully involve her whole body and compensated for not getting low enough by overextending her right arm.

Even without knowing the flaw in her mechanics, something was evidently wrong. When shots flew into the net or hooked wide, her shoulders dropped or she exasperatedly stared into the distance. In between games on the bench, she put her head in her hands.

To eliminate emotional distractions while she struggled, Hegab concentrated on her approach to each individual point.

“My routine, my breathing, everything,” Hegab said. “It’s very important how to prepare ourselves for the next point.”

Hegab also focused specifically on improving her knees at individual portions of practice. Now, when she prepares to take a shot, Hegab bends her body fully down towards the ball. She’s found an improvement in her accuracy, and she now has positive plays to react to.

“A lot of it is making a lot of (returns) and making her opponent earn the shots,” Limam said. “That’s when she plays her best. We call it controlled aggression, not going for every single shot but waiting for the right shot before you pull the trigger.”

Ideally, Limam wants Hegab to stay as emotional as she is, but emphasized she needs to avoid using too much energy after every point.

“The balance (of emotions) is important,” Hegab said. “Sometimes you get so tense, so of course the balance is important.”

Hegab and her teammates would relish an opportunity at another NCAA Tournament run following last year’s program-first appearance in the Round of 32. Collecting wins at fifth or sixth singles with Hegab can only help SU’s cause, and earning those starts with Hegab’s mechanical and emotional improvements.

Hegab’s favorite shot to hit is her “forehand inside-in.” A ball coming towards her backhand side, she gets her feet around it and pulls a forehand down the left sideline. If Hegab hits it down the line past her opponent, you’ll definitely hear her. And, lately, she’s been heard a lot.

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