Capping off the fall season with a national championship, the Blue Devils hope to pick up where they left off in the spring.
Duke took home a national title in doubles from the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships for just the second time in the program’s history, as senior Henrique Cunha and sophomore Raphael Hemmeler defeated Hernus Pieters and Ben Wagland of Georgia 6-4, 6-2.
The No. 16 ranked pair in the ITA preseason doubles rankings did not drop a set in the tournament, with victories against teams from Texas A&M, Texas, Virginia and Georgia. The pair’s closest match came in the semifinal round against Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger of Virginia, which Cunha and Hemmeler took 7-5, 6-2. The pair then cruised to victory against the country’s No. 35 ranked doubles team in straight sets.
“They were pretty dominant from start to finish,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “They did a good job of playing really aggressive doubles and it paid off at the end. ”
Cunha, the No. 1 ranked singles player in the country, faced shoulder problems following the six sets over two matches that he played in the singles bracket on Friday. This injury forced him to retire in the semifinal match the next day.
“My shoulder was hurting, so I couldn’t finish the semifinals, but overall I think I did my best. I had a great tournament,” Cunha said. “After my singles match [on Saturday], I spent hours in the training room, rested up and took care of myself. I left everything on the court [Sunday] because I knew it was going to be the last match.”
Following Cunha and Hemmeler’s doubles title victory at the ITA Carolina Regionals, the No. 2-seeded team in the tournament carried high expectations to Flushing, N.Y. in search of a national championship. The pair did not disappoint.
“We came here to win,” Cunha said. “We knew we were playing well. We were really confident before the tournament and we came here ready to win.”
Hemmeler attributed the team’s success to their strength in serving and returning throughout their matches, several adjustments made in the week prior and the execution of set plays over the course of the tournament.
While Hemmeler did not enter the singles draw, Smith credited his up-tempo playing style as one of the team’s keys to success.
“Henrique obviously played a lot of singles so he was pretty tired, especially at the end, but Rafa did a great job of bringing the energy to every match,” Smith said. “They have incredible chemistry with each other, I think that’s a really important part of a doubles team.”
The pair finishes the fall season with an impressive 12-1 record, and becomes the first Duke team to capture a doubles title at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships since 2003. The first to accomplish this feat were Ludovic Walter and Jason Zimmerman.
Cuhna and Hemmeler will return to action in January when the Blue Devils begin their spring schedule.