Despite the absence of the No. 11 player in the country in Henrique Cunha Sunday, the No. 9 Blue Devils (9-1) finished an action-packed weekend undefeated. Duke used some momentum from Friday night’s 4-1 win over No. 14 Tennessee to spearhead the team against No. 21 Michigan and N.C. Central Sunday at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center.
Blue Devil Michael Redlicki was proud of his team for stepping up in the face of injuries keeping Cunha and Chris Mengel sidelined Sunday.
“The beautiful thing about Duke tennis the year is we can have anybody out and people can get subbed in and just like today,” Redlicki said. “Everybody stepped up and we took it to them. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves… Just go out there and do you, do what you can, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Redlicki had a solid performance Sunday after suffering an unsettling 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 loss Friday to the Volunteers’ Brandon Fickey at the No. 3 spot in the lineup. On Sunday, the freshman, alongside sophomore Jason Tahir, beat the No. 30 ranked doubles tandem in the nation—Wolverines Evan King and Shaun Bernstein—playing at the No. 1 spot. After Duke clinched the doubles point with a second victory from Fred Saba and Mengel, Redlicki went on to win his singles matchup playing at the No. 2 spot.
Redlicki, who was being heckled by Michigan players looking on from the stands during his doubles match, said the chatter only fired him up more. The freshman is already an emotional player who constantly pumps his fist and yells “Come on!” and he was even more animated with Michigan players trying to distract him from the job at hand.
“Once I hear them heckling me in my house, that just makes me want to shut them down, and that’s exactly what we did,” Redlicki said. “I just always was an emotional player. I have really high highs…Playing with the crowd helps…. If people are really gunning for me, that just kicks me into a new gear and makes [me] want to perform.”
Blue Devil head coach Ramsey Smith praised the young gun’s passion and ability to lift his team members’ energy levels.
“He loves the attention,” Smith said. “He loves the crowd, he loves the team concept… I’m just really impressed with him…. He’s such a great competitor, and that’s his element right there in that position. He loves the attention and makes it really entertaining to watch.”
Duke’s Raphael Hemmeler seemed ready to perform and take care of business swiftly against the Wolverines. After taking the first set, the sophomore was up 5-1 in the second set but was unable to close it out as quickly as he wanted to, ultimately finishing the set out 6-3. Hemmeler said he was anxious to finish off his opponent quickly so that he could then cheer on his teammates.
“I was pretty confident, and I wanted to get off the court quickly and help the other guys a little bit, so I was not patient,” Hemmeler said. “I think the matchup was pretty good for me…. I knew how to play against him. I was just confident because we played a really good match against Tennessee Friday night.”
Duke finished off the Wolverines 4-2 and then the Eagles later in the day Sunday, 7-0. Although they only had a few hours to recover after playing Michigan to turn around and play N.C. Central, Smith was confident his team would be ready to take the hard court when the clock struck 5 p.m.
“Our guys are in good shape,” said Smith after the Michigan win. “It’s not going to be a problem. We will enjoy [our win over Michigan] for 15 minutes and go refuel and get back out there. These guys are tennis players and were made to play tennis. That’s what they do well.”
Smith was right. His Blue Devils had no problem finishing the job Sunday. Duke heads to the National Team Indoors Friday in Seattle and hopes to have its entire lineup ready to build off this weekend’s momentous victories.
“This was a huge weekend for us beating Tennessee and beating Michigan shorthanded,” Smith said. “It just shows the character that our team has.”