Duke men's tennis notches comeback win against No. 9 Notre Dame
Heading to South Bend for the first time to take on ninth-ranked Notre Dame without their top-ranked player, the Blue Devils remained unphased.
No. 14 Duke was just a set away from dropping its second straight match before gutting out two three-set victories to top the Fighting Irish 4-3 Friday at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Sophomore Bruno Semenzato took the deciding match for Duke, winning 7-5, 4-6, 6-2. The Blue Devils followed that upset win up with a 7-0 dismantling of Boston College Sunday.
“Bruno stepped up big time," head coach Ramsey Smith said. "He mentally prepared himself and played exactly the right way—he played really aggressive and he looked incredibly comfortable out there. He was just absolutely ready to be in that position and win a huge match for us on the road.”
Semenzato—now ranked No. 71 in the nation—found himself in a similar spot two weeks ago with a chance to clinch a victory for Duke against then-No. 2 Oklahoma. The sophomore dropped a three-setter, and the Blue Devils went on to lose the match.
This time, Semenzato would not be denied.
"He was in a similar type of situation against Oklahoma where [he] could clinch, and he played a bit tentative," Smith said. "He was frustrated with how he played in that match."
The Blue Devils (12-5, 4-1 in the ACC) would not have even found themselves in that situation had junior Raphael Hemmeler not saved three match points to take a 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 win against Notre Dame's Ryan Bandy. Trailing 5-3 in the third and final set, Hemmeler broke serve twice to keep his team in the match.
"Raphael just dug deep and found a way to win the match," Smith said.
Notre Dame (13-7, 3-3) had a distinct advantage at the top singles spot with Duke's Michael Redlicki suspended, but 48th-ranked Jason Tahir cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 win against No. 29 Greg Andrews.
Smith called the victory Tahir's "best match of the year."
After collecting an emotional victory, the Blue Devils headed north to Boston and dismantled Boston College 7-0 Sunday to cap off the weekend. Taking control of the match from start to finish, Duke prevented the Eagles (4-10, 0-6) from winning a single set in the contest.
The Blue Devils placed an emphasis on doubles in the Boston College match after dropping the doubles point to both Virginia and Notre Dame in the team's previous two matches. Duke was able to get back on track in its doubles play as the pairing of Hemmeler and Fred Saba posted an 8-4 victory and Tahir and Jason Levine recorded an 8-3 win to give the Blue Devils early momentum.
With another pair of ACC wins under its belt, a more confident Duke team will hit the road again this weekend, traveling south to face Miami.
"The Notre Dame match was a big emotional win for us, and I thought we did a really good job of refocusing," Smith said. "We took some big steps forward this weekend. We came together as a team."