Going undefeated in any sport is a rare feat that takes skill, determination, stamina, a lot of confidence and just a little bit of good luck. At Geneseo, one has to look no further for this potent combination than sophomore Zakiyyah Abdus-Salaam, who plays sixth singles on the tennis team and has not lost a singles match all year.
In Geneseo’s most recent match, Saturday April 27 against The College of New Jersey, Abdus-Salaam made quick work of her opponent, dispatching her in straight sets by a score of 6-1, 6-1. Although Abdus-Salaam and fellow sophomore Minxuan Yuan lost 8-2 in their third doubles match, it was the first loss of the year for the pair in third doubles. Previously, they had gone undefeated as well.
While she saw some action at third doubles last year, this campaign was Abdus-Salaam’s first full year playing in scoring matches. She pointed to the match with SUNY New Paltz in the fall as the first point at which she knew that she had the ability to do something special.
“I won the first set, I lost the second set and then the third set ended up going to a tiebreaker, which I won 7-2,” Abdus-Salaam said. “I honestly put everything into the match. It was ridiculous, but as soon as I won, I was the happiest person when I won … that motivated me to continue improving on my game.”
Abdus-Salaam credited her ability to avoid errors and the support of her teammates for her success this year.
“The majority of my opponents are not as consistent as me,” she said. “My teammates even said that I’m kind of like a brick wall because I literally get every ball back.”
Even though the pressure to remain undefeated has grown larger with every match, Abdus-Salaam has tried not to let it affect her game.
“The past couple of matches, especially when we played [New York University], I was getting extremely nervous … I’m trying to go out strong and not lose,” she said. “Honestly, I really don’t think about it too much.”
In the overall match against New Jersey, the Lions swept the three doubles matches, pulling out a 6-3 victory over Geneseo. In addition to Abdus-Salaam’s victory, senior Katie Talbot and sophomore Amanda Rosati won matches at third and fourth singles, respectively. It was only the third loss for Geneseo all year and had extremely close matches at first singles and second doubles gone in the Knights’ favor, they would have eked out the win.
Geneseo has some time off before the NCAA tournament begins on May 10. Head coach Jim Chen said he is optimistic to equal or improve on last year’s second round appearance, saying, “We would love to go at least to the second round, if not the third round.”
The Knights will find out their opponent and their first-round site on Monday May 6.