Competing for the first national title of the collegiate tennis season, the Blue Devils fell short of their lofty expectations.
Sophomore Chris Mengel and junior Henrique Cunha saw their tournaments come to an abrupt end during both the singles and doubles competitions of the ITA-All American Championships this weekend in Tulsa, Okla.
“Chris and Henrique were frustrated to lose [in the] second round,” head coach Ramsey Smith said, “but ran into really tough opponents.”
Mengel opened his tournament Thursday with a difficult three-set victory over Tulsa’s 51st-ranked Clifford Marsland. Mengel, ranked 49th on the ITA preseason list, cruised to win the first set 6-4. Marsland, playing with home-court advantage, fought back to win the second set 6-3 and force a decisive third set. Mengel kept his composure, though, winning the set 6-3 and advancing to the next round.
In his second match, Mengel was downed by Virginia’s Mitchell Frank 7-5, 6-2. Frank, who was named the nation’s top freshman prior to the season, went on the win the tournament with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Georgia’s Wil Spencer.
Cunha entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed, opening competition with an easy 6-2, 6-2 victory over Southern California’s 15th-ranked Ray Sarmiento. In the second round, though, Cunha ran into trouble, falling to Oklahoma’s 17th-ranked Costin Paval, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5.
“[Cunha] had a great first round win,” Smith said. “He ran into the number one player from Oklahoma who lost a really tough three-set match in the semifinals.”
In doubles competition, the 15th-ranked pairing of Mengel and Cunha showed that their budding doubles partnership was still a work in progress, falling 8-5 to the Auburn tandem of Andreas Mies and Alex Stamchev.
In the consolation bracket after the defeat, they then faced another highly-ranked losing team, the No. 7 duo of Louis Cant and Malte Stropp of Mississippi State. After Cunha and former partner Reid Carleton were ranked No. 1 late last season, the Brazilian junior and his new partner are just 1-3 in doubles play.
Despite the losses, Smith is optimistic for both the singles and doubles heading into the important ITA Regional Championships this weekend in Durham.
“These fall tournaments give our guys an opportunity to get some wins under their belt,” Smith said. “I’m not worried at all about them [Cunha and Mengel]. They are going to be one of the top teams in the country.”