Tennis

Libi Mesh benefits from sitting out doubles and playing singles

Courtesy of SU Athletics

The fans usually have to wait for singles to see Libi Mesh’s flashy sneakers. She has to wait to play in them, too.

Most matchdays at Drumlins Country Club and on the road, Libi Mesh’s bright, coral-colored sneakers occupy the same area as the spectators for doubles play. Only when she begins warming up for singles do her Nike shoes bounce along the baseline she’d been waiting to defend.

Mesh has featured in singles after not competing in doubles in 16 of the 19 matches she’s participated in for Syracuse (8-13, 5-9 Atlantic Coast) during ACC play. On the season, Mesh is 1-2 in singles matches played after competing in doubles and 8-8 when solely playing singles.

“She’s done a very good job the last couple of matches,” head coach Younes Limam said. “She gets a good start.”

With Valeria Salazar (wrist) and Olivia Messineo (back) unable to compete due to injury, SU’s roster consists of seven healthy players. The doubles competition includes six players. So when Mesh sits out the first portion of play, she is the only healthy Syracuse player doing so.

The Orange begins warmups about an hour before their match starts. While each of the players starting in doubles warm up with their partner, Mesh prepares with Limam or volunteer assistant coach Len Lopoo (and sometimes both at once). She said that she warms up with the same intensity she would have if she was playing doubles. Accounting for player introductions and the five-minute break after doubles concludes, Mesh usually is stagnant for around an hour after her initial warmups.

If Mesh is lucky, one of the doubles matches will conclude with time to spare, giving her a warmup partner. Occasionally, that partner is Gabriela Knutson. They warm up on court 5 at Drumlins, opposite courts 1, 2 and 3 where the doubles competition takes place.

In her singles match, Mesh gains the edge in freshness, because she just rested while her opponent became tired out. Conversely, she isn’t as warmed up as an opponent who just played a full set.

“There’s benefits and disadvantages,” Mesh said. “I’m trying to be as ready and as warmed up as I can when I go to the match … It could be a disadvantage (that her opponent has already played), but I’m trying not to make it one.”

Mesh rarely leaves her baseline, and just as infrequently attempts to slam winners. She parries whatever her opponent sends her way until the opposition makes a mistake, or until the SU sophomore senses an attacking opportunity too good to pass up. The rallies in Mesh’s matches oftentimes seem endless, stretching for more than 15 shots. Able to conserve energy by not playing doubles, Mesh said, “I can stay all day on the court.”

Limam and Mesh both discussed that the most important aspect to the waiting game is staying emotionally withdrawn from the doubles competition. Many of Mesh’s teammates emphasized throughout the season that the result of the doubles point affects the momentum of both teams. Limam doesn’t want Mesh too engaged in the result.

“That’s not an easy task,” Limam said. “Not getting involved too much emotionally in the doubles. Sometimes it comes down to one doubles, and sometimes you waste a lot of energy that you’re gonna need going into the singles.”

Mesh gets emotionally locked in for singles, and her bright Nikes have slightly more juice. In her long rallies, a little extra in the tank can make all the difference.

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