North Carolina freshman men's tennis player Robert Kelly flashed a wry smile — barely perceptible — as he turned and strolled back to the baseline. His opponent, North Carolina Central’s Jamal Hoyte, had just unleashed a forehand winner, a fist pump and a guttural scream.
On the next point Hoyte attacked the net, sensing a chance to reverse the match’s momentum. Kelly didn’t flinch. He floated a lob over Hoyte’s head, landing it inches inside the baseline and outside of Hoyte’s reach.
Kelly went on to win the next three points, and the match, improving his 2015 singles record to 6-1 and helping No. 7 UNC sweep Campbell and N.C. Central in Wednesday night’s doubleheader. The freshman has burst onto the scene for the Tar Heels this winter, demonstrating the composure and self-assuredness of a veteran.
“It’s very impressive for a freshman to come in and play on any team, especially one that’s ranked in the Top 10,” said Kelly’s doubles partner Brett Clark. “He’s extremely talented, and it’s really fun to play doubles with him.”
Between points Wednesday, Kelly kept cool while the senior Hoyte huffed, puffed and chided himself. At one instance, Kelly stood on the baseline, casually bouncing the ball while he waited for Hoyte to collect himself on the bench and return to the court to receive Kelly’s serve.