It was a successful weekend of tennis for the Blue Devils, who qualified as one of the 15 teams to head to Seattle for the ITA National Indoor Tournament. After handing it to Middle Tennessee State on Friday 7-0, the team cruised to another sweep against Northwestern Saturday, clinching yet another 7-0 victory.
The fifth-ranked Blue Devils started off with strong doubles play, led by sophomore Jason Tahir and freshman Michael Redlicki, who went up 4-1 early against the Wildcats.
“Any time we can get out to big leads, it relaxes the other guys,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “When we win that doubles point, we feel really good going into singles.”
Doubles play was highlighted by junior pair Fred Saba and Chris Mengel, who overcame a 2-0 deficit against Northwestern’s Alex Pasareanu and Mihir Kumar to secure the first win of the night for the Blue Devils. Fierce net play by Mengel gave the pair a break of serve to tie it up at 2-2, and a strategic cross-court backhand volley by Saba gave the pair a 5-2 lead in a love service game.
The Saba-Mengel team showed off its consistency and smart decision-making in long rallies that finished in their favor. A forehand winner by Saba for match point secured a handed 8-3 win.
“I’m not really looking at individual results,” Saba said. “We produced really well in doubles and the team got through, and that’s about all we can do.”
For sophomore Raphael Hemmeler and senior Henrique Cunha, it was business as usual on court one. The No. 11 ranked doubles team in the nation stayed cool, calm and collected, winning serves and stroking smoothly. A down-the-line forehand winner for Hemmeler clinched a break of serve and a 6-3 lead. This momentum carried the team to the second and final 8-3 doubles victory.
“Great weekend, really good team win,” Smith said. “We accomplished our goal and we’re headed to Seattle.”
The team is excited to head to Seattle for the tournament, including Hemmeler who has never been before. Hemmeler made quick work of Northwestern’s Chris Jackman in singles, winning 6-1, 6-2 on court five. After an easy first set, Hemmeler went up 3-0 early in the second, dropping only two games the rest of the match.
But Hemmeler gives some credit to Northwestern’s battle against Virginia Tech the night before. He successfully used his opponent’s fatigue to his advantage.
“I think I played decently,” Hemmeler said. “I tried to get him into longer rallies since I knew he was little more tired than I was. Overall, I’m satisfied with my game.”
The rest of the team also appears satisfied with Hemmeler’s match, and Tahir admits that, of all the matches, he is most proud of his teammate’s quick win.
“Every time I look up it seems like he’s blowing the guy out. He makes it easier to play well when you know you have a good chance of winning every match,” he said.