Duke men's tennis victory marks coach's 100th win
The No. 9 Blue Devils moved down the Atlantic Coast on a mission, conceding just two points in their two matches against No. 19 Clemson and Georgia Tech. Duke (18-4, 6-1 in the ACC) downed the Tigers (14-4, 3-2) 7-0 Friday and beat the Yellow Jackets (8-12, 1-6) 5-2 Sunday.
With Friday’s win, Blue Devil head coach Ramsey Smith recorded his 100th win as a coach, making him one of just four coaches in the program’s history to win at least 100 matches. He also became the first person in the team’s history to win at least 100 matches in singles and doubles as a player, as well as head coach.
“It is pretty neat,” Smith said. “Obviously it’s about all the players [on the teams I have been a part of]. We’ve had some great teams historically. Right now, we are mainly focused on finishing this season strong.”
Despite conceding the first doubles match of the day to the Clemson, as the tandem of junior Fred Saba and freshman Daniel McCall fell to the Tigers’ Hunter Harrington and Gerardo Meza, Duke rallied to win the doubles point with victories on courts one and two.
“We didn’t play great at [third] doubles, so our one and two teams really stepped up,” Smith said. “Some guys are going to have off days sometimes, but their teammates definitely helped pick them up.”
Jason Tahir and Michael Redlicki recorded an 8-4 win on court two and the top-ranked duo of Henrique Cunha and Raphael Hemmeler won their match 8-3. “[Cunha and Hemmeler] are in a great rhythm right now. It gives the team so much confidence now,” Smith said. “We have such a good shot of winning the number one doubles every single match. They are playing very aggressively. They have a lot of patterns that they can of go to. They have such great chemistry and are playing some really special doubles.”
The tandem is now 28-3 on the season. Hemmeler, a sophomore from Switzerland, said he truly enjoys playing with Cunha.
“It’s his senior year, and we are really close and we always have fun,” Hemmeler said. “Before the matches, we talk about how we are going to try to control every match. We try to enjoy ourselves and play together.”
The Blue Devils then went on to sweep Clemson in singles. Hemmeler recorded his 28th victory of the season with a 6-1, 6-0 decision against the Tigers’ Zachary Rigsby. At the top spot, No. 5 Cunha continued his undefeated run this season, beating No. 17 Yannick Maden 6-4, 6-4.
Duke headed into singles play Sunday with a point under its belt after winning doubles. This time, Saba teamed up with Chris Mengel and crushed the Yellow Jackets’ Garret Gordon and Colin Edwards on court three by a score of 8-1.
Cunha and Hemmeler finished a little while after with an 8-2 win on court one. The Blue Devils saw a handful of competitive, back-and-forth matches on the singles side against Georgia Tech. On court two, Michael Redlicki conceded the first set 6-0 to Yellow Jacket Juan Melian, but went on to win the match, notching second- and third-set victories of 7-5 and 6-1. On court four, Hemmeler also found himself in a tight one with Eduardo Segura. After winning the first set 6-1, Segura came back to win the second set in a tiebreak, 7-6. With the match tied at a set apiece, Hemmeler put his foot down and cruised to a 6-0 third set win to secure the victory.
“I was lucky to have a really good start,” Hemmeler said. “I struggled a little with my serve today. He always broke me back and immediately after, I broke him. He started playing better and didn’t miss a lot of balls…. I was really ready for the third set. I played really aggressively and put a lot of pressure on him.”
With Cunha out for the singles portion of the Georgia Tech match, all of Duke’s players were forced to play up one spot, moving No. 25 Saba to take on No. 79 Juan Spir at the No. 1 position. Saba dropped his match 6-1, 6-4 following a decisive 6-2, 6-1 victory for Jason Tahir on court five. Freshman Josh Levine was brought in to play on court six for Duke and recorded a point for the Blue Devils by beating Georgia Tech’s Colin Edwards 6-3, 6-2.
Duke’s three remaining regular-season matches will be played at Ambler Tennis Stadium, the next one coming Sunday against Miami at noon.
“We have built up a lot of good momentum right now,” Smith said. “Our goal is to finish strong and prepare our best for each match, one match at a time. Now we have to focus on Miami.”