Mehvish Safdar remains strong suit in doubles

The senior exclusively plays in the No. 1 doubles spot with partner Caitlyn Merzbacher.

Junior Caitlyn Merzbacher returns the ball to the University of Northern Iowa with partner Mehvish Safdar at the Baseline Tennis Center on Friday, Jan. 26.

Jack Rodgers

Junior Caitlyn Merzbacher returns the ball to the University of Northern Iowa with partner Mehvish Safdar at the Baseline Tennis Center on Friday, Jan. 26.

Max Biegert

It seems as though every tennis player has their own unique game. 

Senior Mehvish Safdar does not normally play in the singles portion of the dual, but she is considered one of the top doubles players on the team and has played in the No. 1 position for the Gophers all year long. 

Sadfar said she is comfortable playing doubles because she had been working on it prior to college. She would hit volleys a lot in practice with her coach and it made her more comfortable playing at the net, which she says is critical in doubles.

“It’s about awareness on the court and moving with your partner, being confident at the net, dictating from the net,” Safdar said.

Safdar also credits a lot of her doubles knowledge to her sister, Komal. Komal was a tennis player at Syracuse University. Safdar said her sister would serve and attack the net right away, and that strategy stuck with her.

“I remembered I was scared to serve and volley, and in juniors my sister just said ‘do it, there is no other option,'” Safdar said. 

Since Safdar’s sophomore year, she has been partners with junior Caitlyn Merzbacher. This season, the duo has a record of 12-7 with one weekend of regular season play left. They have given new head coach Catrina Thompson a constant that has helped the Gophers claim seven out of 11 doubles points in the Big Ten season. 

Safdar said she instantly had chemistry with Merzbacher because of their time growing up in Ohio. They would play in some of the same juniors tournaments across the state and became friends through the connection. 

This weekend will mark the last time the duo will be paired together in the regular season. The doubles team began playing with each other in Safdar’s sophomore year and Merzbacher’s freshman year. They started out at the No. 3 singles spot and worked their way up the ladder.

“We say if you are going to do something just do it, don’t hesitate, and that is exactly what [Safdar] does so well,” Merzbacher said. “I grew up knowing [Safdar], so it’s been fun carrying that friendship on to college, and it’s been fun because we just try to enjoy it out there.”

Safdar is one of two seniors on the team this year, and has become a leader within the group. Thompson said her leadership is a lot like her doubles strategy, adding that the tennis player is fearless attacking the ball at the net, and she is fearless in leading the Gophers.

“She is outspoken and she leads by example with a great personality, and a lot of the girls look up to her,” Thompson said. “We will miss her next year.”

Safdar said, after tennis, she will be going to grad school to study sports psychology. She is on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at the University of Minnesota, which helps set NCAA legislation and helps student-athletes at all schools. There, the main topic has been mental illness. She noticed the sports psychologists at Minnesota are always backed up and she felt she could help out.

However, Safdar still has one more weekend of regular season play and the Big Ten Championships the weekend after.

“We have prepped well and we have the confidence that we can play with everyone and beat anyone, and we just need to go in with that confidence and get the victory,” Safdar said.