first_img Published on February 1, 2018 at 12:20 am Contact David: ddschnei@syr.edu Comments Two seasons ago, Anna Shkudun was Syracuse’s star. She was featured at the top of the Orange’s lineup, tallied 13 singles wins and became the first SU player since 1996 to be invited to the NCAA singles tournament before ending the season ranked 64th nationally.The following November, Shkudun underwent left knee surgery. While her teammates and coaches knew she would spend most of the upcoming season at less than 100 percent, nobody expected her to struggle like she did. The Energodar, Ukraine native spent her second year of eligibility at SU laboring through knee discomfort and registered a lowly 2-13 singles record, the worst on the team.“My knee was bothering me so much,” Shkudun said. “I had a lot of limitations. I could not do a lot of jumps or runs, movements to the side, or bend my knees a lot.”A season later, now in her third year of eligibility, Shkudun is “just under 100 percent,” she said. But with a solidified one-two duo in Gabriela Knutson and Miranda Ramirez, she knows her time at the top of the Syracuse (3-0) lineup is likely over. Instead of worrying solely about her on-court contributions, Shkudun, a team captain, has embraced a leadership role while continuing to physically prepare herself for competition.Still recovering from the surgery during the 2017 season, Shkudun contributed for a struggling SU team. Shkudun’s first three appearances of the 2017 season came in doubles, where she partnered with either Masha Tritou or Gabriela Knutson to tally three straight wins against Virginia, Buffalo and Brown. Against both Brown and Virginia, Shkudun was a part of Syracuse’s only wins in the meet.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe following match against Boston College, Shkudun made her season debut in singles at the No. 1 slot. She lost, 3-6, 0-6, marking the first of 13 defeats in her next 15 singles matches. Unlike in doubles, Shkudun ran to all quadrants of the court to cover holes formerly filled by her partner. This put additional stress on her knee and tired her out much faster than in past singles matches. Soon, Shkudun’s poor results and slow recovery began to affect her.“It affected me a little bit mentally,” Shkudun said. “When you know that you can’t do better than your body allows, it hurts you mentally.”While she continued to struggle in singles play, Shkudun remained steady in doubles, where she posted a 6-6 record with her primary partner, Dina Hegab. In doubles play, Shkudun stayed on the baseline, only moving side-to-side when it was absolutely necessary. When standing still, she applied as little pressure to her left knee as possible, Shkudun said.Hegab does not think the success of the duo was harmed by her partner’s injury. Because Shkudun stayed on the baseline and avoided moving forward or side-to-side, she played the entire match without putting too much strain on her knee.“She never showed to me on the court that she was hurting,” Hegab said. “She didn’t take away from our confidence as a team.”Since the Orange’s first round loss to Louisville in the ACC Tournament on April 26, Shkudun has prepared both on her own and with SU’s training staff for her final season. Head coach Younes Limam also named Shkudun a team captain, as he feels her experience and leadership qualities can help the team when she is not on the court, he said.In three team matches this season, Shkudun has recorded four wins, two in doubles and two in singles. While she still experiences some minor limitations, her mobility is far better than it was last season, she said. When the Orange faced Colgate on Jan. 26, Shkudun remained on the sidelines and provided support for her teammates. During breaks in play, she approached her teammates and gave instruction.When healthy, Anna Shkudun’s tennis ability helped her achieve something no other SU player had since 1996. Since, it has been a long, painful and frustrating journey. She’s almost back to full health. In the meantime, she’ll keep helping her team in anyway possible.“We do believe she is going to contribute a lot,” Limam said about Shkudun. “And not just by playing.”center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img