Duke men's tennis heads to sunny Florida for a pair of ACC tests
After spending just three of the past seven days in Durham, Duke heads on the road again to face another pair of ACC opponents.
The Blue Devils notched their first win against a top-10 opponent last weekend with an upset of No. 9 Notre Dame. Duke will look to build on that victory when it travels to play Miami at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center Friday at 3 p.m. before heading to Florida State (15-7, 3-3) Sunday for a noon match.
“It was a big win, especially being on the road,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “Notre Dame’s had a really good year. I definitely think it was one of our best team efforts, and I was really proud of how hard we fought. I think it was a big turning point in the season.”
No. 13 Duke's match against Hurricanes will be a difficult one, as Miami has been playing well of late. The Hurricanes (12-6, 3-3 in the ACC) have not lost a home match since Feb. 9, upsetting No. 21 Wake Forest and N.C. State in the process.
“They’ve done really well recently in the last month or so,” Smith said. “I think they’re similar to last year’s team and all of their guys have gotten better so it will be definitely a challenge, so we have to make sure we are ready to go.”
Despite the Hurricanes’ strong home record, Florida State should pose an even bigger challenge for the Blue Devils (12-5, 4-1), especially in doubles, where the Seminoles boast the No. 15 and No. 41 teams in the country.
Duke has some familiarity with Florida State's top doubles duo of Dominic Cotrone and Blake Davis, as the pair almost upset Duke’s team of Henrique Cunha and Raphael Hemmeler—ranked second in the nation—in the Round of 16 in last year’s NCAA Singles and Doubles Championship, winning the first set 7-5 before dropping the next two 4-6, 5-7.
This year the Blue Devils will be without the services of Cunha, leaving Duke’s unranked team of Hemmeler and Fred Saba with the task of playing Cotrone and Davis.
“We’ve been working really hard on doubles,” Smith said. “Florida State is really good at doubles and their number-one team actually probably should be ranked higher than they are.”
Back-to-back weekends of road matches haven’t given the team much time to prepare for this weekend’s matchups, as the Blue Devils have had just two days of practice this week. Luckily, Duke has been a strong road team this year, winning six of its eight road matches, and Smith doesn’t see the constant travel and lack of practice as an issue for his team.
“I think [travel is] part of the deal,” he said. “It’s a lot of traveling, but I think we’ve played well on the road and guys are used to playing on the road. I think the guys are feeling pretty fresh.”
Duke will be under more pressure to keep its strong performance from last weekend going, as Duke alum and tennis fan Shane Battier will be in attendance. Should the team put in a similar performance to the one they had against Notre Dame, the Blue Devils should have no trouble impressing the NCAA and NBA champion.