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During her singles match against Cornell, Gabriela Knutson hit a return that bounced off the net and back onto her side of the court. She turned around and flipped her racket in the air, before looking at her teammates who were both playing a doubles match on the court beside her and said, “Go Anna, go Libby!”Her face turned serious as she clenched her racket, set her feet and bent over. Her opponent was creeping back into the match, but Knutson was determined not to lose her grip.“I’m the kind of player that needs to relax when I’m playing,” Knutson said. While playing against the Big Red, Knutson used her backhand to her advantage. With each return from her opponent, Knutson set up and hit the ball to the opposite corner of the court, eventually setting herself up for to win both sets, 6-2, 6-3. Knutson is a power-hitting player that can beat opponents with both her forehand and backhand, and plays mostly in the back-center of the court. This aggressive approach allows her to use a mixture of strong backhands and quick forehands to leave her opponent off balance.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHer powerful game that she’s developed over the years led her to earning the top spot among all freshmen on the team. Knutson is currently slated as Syracuse’s (4-0) No. 3 singles player and has yet to lose a match this season. She will help the Orange with her power hitting when SU goes to Yale on Friday at noon and plays St. John’s at home on Sunday at 11 a.m. “It’s an offensive position that I like to create so I can maybe go up to the net, or back (to the baseline),” Knutson said.Knutson’s power is centered around her backhand. While she has a solid forehand, she does experience several miscues in matches, which leads her to setting up to hit backhand. However, much of this success has come with some struggles. Knutson comes from the Czech Republic, and was recruited to enroll at Syracuse full-time this past year. Recruited by former Syracuse head coach Luke Jensen, Knutson showcased her skills at the Orange Bowl, a tennis tournament that consists of the best tennis players all around the world.“(Jensen) scouted me and really liked my energy. He saw I’d be really good in a group and wanted me to come to SU,” Knutson said.Though Jensen is no longer the coach at Syracuse, Knutson decided to not transfer. Current SU head coach Younes Limam picked up where Jensen left off, and Knutson has assimilated well. As an assistant coach for Rice, Limam was one of many coaches that recruited Knutson. While he didn’t get to coach her at Rice, he’s getting the opportunity at SU.“(Gabby’s) a winner. She stepped up as a freshman and played some really good tennis,” Limam said of Knutson’s success so far. “We are fortunate to have her.” Comments Published on February 10, 2016 at 11:20 pm Contact Charlie: email@example.com | @charliedisturco Facebook Twitter Google+