Contrasting personalities help Fudge, Lambropoulos in doubles play

Megan Fudge and Marisa Lambropoulos may seem at first to be quite an odd doubles pairing, but that’s what makes them so good.

Megan Fudge and Marisa “Mish” Lambropoulos may seem at first to be quite an odd doubles pairing.

While Fudge is described by her coach Michelle Dasso as “very competitive and focused” on and off the court, Lambropoulos is “the goofball” with a “permanent smile on her face.”

But don’t be mistaken. The Illini women’s tennis players’ contrasting personalities actually help them on the court.

“Fudge is very vocal, while Mish … when she wins, she doesn’t say anything … that’s just her personality,” Dasso said. “(Lambropoulos) won’t be fist-pumping or fist-rocketing like Megan.

“When you watch Marisa play, you can’t tell if she’s winning or losing because she’s so calm. Whereas for Fudge, it’s going to be loud on her court whether if it’s singles or doubles or practice or anything,” Dasso added.

Together, Fudge, a junior, and Lambropoulos, a sophomore, boast a 7-3 record in doubles on the dual season, usually playing at the No. 2 doubles spot. Their most recent doubles victories came over the spring break, when the Illini traveled to Hawaii and split a pair of matches with then-No. 36 Washington and Hawaii. Fudge and Lambropoulos went 2-0 in doubles and grabbed the lone doubles victory against Washington at the No. 2 doubles spot.

“They played awesome,” Dasso said about Fudge and Lambropoulos’ doubles matches against Washington and Hawaii. “They’re getting better and better … They both have tremendous hands and very natural doubles instincts. (I) couldn’t be happier with the way they’re playing doubles.”

Dasso had no concerns that the “fiery” Fudge would intimidate the more “laid-back” Lambropoulos when she first paired them together.

“The first time we played together, we were just, like, laughing the entire time,” Fudge said with a laugh. “We weren’t quite sure what we were doing yet.”

While some might not believe that fire and ice on the same doubles court is a good idea, Dasso believed otherwise.

“In general, (Marisa) helps Megan to keep it toned down and under control. Vice versa, it helps Mish to have someone that’s fiery to light a fire underneath her,” Dasso said.

Fudge added that sometimes when she’s tense, Lambropoulos doesn’t even have to say anything to calm her down. Lambropoulos just has be smiling.

Other times, the duo takes Lambropoulos’ laid-back approach on the court.

“Sometimes we just crack up, like she would say something absolutely random that would have nothing to do with on court,” Fudge said.

Lambropoulos quickly chimed in and said, “Sometimes things just pop into my head.”

Fudge and Lambropoulos also agreed that they just seem find ways to make the most of their playing time together.

“We both obviously like being at the net,” Fudge said. “That’s our main goal. (Marisa) does it through aggressive play and hard shots, fast shots, whereas I’m more of the player who likes to throw in the lob or likes to chase after (the ball).”

Lambropoulos agreed.

“We always know before the points starts what we’re going to do,” Lambropoulos added.

Doubles has been an ongoing concern for coach Dasso. After the Illini (12-4) dropped the doubles point in three of their first four dual matches, Dasso decided to switch up the lineup. She knew the talent was there, but the mentality was missing.

After pairing Fudge and Lambropoulos together for the first time on Feb. 6 against Kansas, Illinois rolled to an eight-match winning streak after the switch. While Fudge and Lambropoulos didn’t play together in the two matches following the Kansas contest, the two have been doubles partners in the team’s last nine matches, a stretch in which the Illini have gone 7-2.

If a switch in the doubles lineup was successful, how about a switch in personalities for a day?

Fudge contemplated the idea and said, “I’d have to be funny,” before Lambropoulos quickly rejected that thought.

“She’s not funny,” Lambropoulos said.