Duke senior Reid Carleton finished the 2009-10 season ranked No. 1 in doubles with partner Henrique Cunha to receive ITA National Doubles Team of the Year honors. The 21-year-old from Naples, Fla., set the school record for doubles wins in a single season last year with a 44-6 overall record and teamed with Cunha to go 41-6 for a Duke single-season record by a duo. He also earned All-America honors in doubles, as well as All-ACC honors in both 2008 and 2010.
Carleton, 21, is currently ranked No. 1 in doubles in the ITA NCAA Division I National Preseason Rankings. He recently took time to answer questions for USTA.com about being ranked No. 1, his goals for himself and his team this season, his favorite thing about being a Blue Devil and more.
USTA.com: You have had a great fall so far both on the singles court and doubles court, including a run to the singles semis at the ITA/D’Novo All-American Championships. What kind of improvements have you made from last year to this year in singles?
Reid Carleton: I have made a real commitment to my off-court fitness training, which has really paid off. Now, I feel extremely confident whenever I am walking onto the court because, when the match turns into a battle, I know my legs are going to be there. I have also spent a lot of time working on my serve, focusing primarily on accuracy, while still trying to add a few miles per hour.
USTA.com: You and your partner, Henrique Cunha, had an excellent season last year, earning the No. 1 final ranking. Obviously, there is a target on your back going into this season. How do you guys handle the pressure?
Reid Carleton: There was very little pressure coming into last season, as Cunha and I had never played with each other, and we were very much under the radar. However, as the season progressed and we climbed in the rankings, teams were visibly more intense when playing us. The level or pressure that exists this year is comparable to what we dealt with last season. Henrique and I never talk about who we play or what our ranking is. We just try to stay calm and execute our game plan.
USTA.com: Your coach, Ramsey Smith, was a former top player himself at Duke. What have you learned from Coach Smith over the last two seasons?
Reid Carleton: Coach Smith has been instrumental in the overall progress of my tennis game. He has really instilled in me the values of hard work. Along with working hard on the court, Coach Smith and I created a specific developmental plan for my game.
USTA.com: What are your goals for yourself and for your team this season?
Reid Carleton: I am very excited about this season for both the team and myself. In terms of wins, our team is having the most successful fall since I arrived at Duke, and I am personally having the best fall results of my career. With regards to team goals, I would like to see Duke finish inside the top 10 and capture the ACC Championship. I see this as a tremendously realistic goal, with the talent and work ethic of our team.
USTA.com: As a senior, how has your role changed on the team? Are you a vocal leader, or do you lead by example?
Reid Carleton: My role is relatively similar to what it has been in the past. I am not the most vocal person, so I prefer to lead by example. I always try to be the first person at the courts and the last one to leave. My main goal is for everyone on the team to feel comfortable and valued. I let all of my teammates know, especially the freshmen, that I am always there to help them out if they are ever struggling with anything, on or off of the court.
USTA.com: There are a lot of great rivalries in the ACC. Which match do you look forward to the most?
Reid Carleton: The Carolina match is undoubtedly the biggest ACC match for me. Over my past three years, we have had some incredibly intense and high-quality matches. The week before we play Carolina, you can visibly see my teammates’ and even coaches’ demeanor change and become more concentrated. We also get great crowds for the UNC match, which only adds to the excitement.
USTA.com: You were one of the top recruits in the class of 2007. Tell us a little about your recruiting experience and why you chose Duke. Did your sister, former Duke star Jackie Carleton, play a role in that decision?
Reid Carleton: My sister definitely played a role in my final decision to attend Duke. When she was playing, I took two unofficial visits, during which I checked out the campus and met the coaches and the guys on the team. I immediately loved the feeling I got when I walked on the Duke campus. I felt comfortable with the coaches and players, and I was impressed with the balance of academics and athletics. Additionally, I was confident in the fact that, through the instruction of Coach Smith and Coach Lapidus, I could take my game to the next level. I decided to commit right after Kalamazoo during the summer of my junior year without even taking an official visit. When I was at Duke, everything just felt right.
USTA.com: Speaking of siblings, you come from a tennis family, with Jackie being a top junior and collegiate player and your brother Tripper now a top player at Wake Forest. How were the family tennis outings growing up?
Reid Carleton: There were actually surprisingly few full family tennis outings growing up. My sister is five years older than I am and was a great junior, so by the time I was six or seven, she was already out traveling to all kinds of tournaments. When Jackie was 14, she left for an academy in Florida, leaving just my brother and me. Most of the time, Trip and I would train together while our father coached us. Practice was often short but intense, as we both played other sports seriously until sophomore year of high school.
USTA.com: What’s the best thing about Duke and being a Blue Devil?
Reid Carleton: I have to go with the basketball. The atmosphere around campus is electric. People literally camp out in the freezing cold for months just to make sure they get a good seat for the games. Once all of these students get inside of Cameron, they go absolutely wild. The shared love of Blue Devil basketball adds to the feel of the cohesive student body that is Duke. It’s an atmosphere I have never seen anywhere else.
USTA.com: Let’s talk academics. What is your favorite class? What is your major? Any career aspirations?
Reid Carleton: I am a history major, with a minor in markets and management. My favorite class is Entrepreneurship. I really like the idea of being creatively involved in a business from the initial idea to the design process and eventually seeing the finished product. I am focused on playing professional tennis for now, but I could see myself working as an investment banker in the future.
USTA.com: What advice do you have for junior tennis players who want to play in college?
Reid Carleton: I would tell junior players to keep working hard towards their goals, but also make sure they are enjoying the game and everything that comes along with it. It’s important to be aware of all of the positive things playing competitive tennis brings, such as travel and friendships. I would also like to stress the importance of playing other sports to the younger players. I feel playing other sports will not only help a child become a better all-around athlete, but it can also help them grow to be more socially confident and introduce to them the concept of being a good teammate.