CARY, N.C.—When the No. 9 Blue Devils got ready to take on No. 24 Wake Forest for the second time this season in the semifinal of the ACC Tournament at Cary Tennis Park, they were expecting another walk-over similar to the 7-0 victory they dished out in March.
What they weren’t anticipating was the heartbreaking 4-3 loss to a Demon Deacon squad that refused to throw in the towel when Duke took a commanding lead.
Holding a 3-0 advantage and needing just one more point to advance, the Blue Devils dropped their final four matches and fell 4-3 to Wake Forest Saturday.
“We took our feet off the gas,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “This was the same team with a few different match-ups and unfortunately, Wake Forest out-competed us.”
On court one, the nation’s No. 2 doubles pair of senior Henrique Cunha and sophomore Raphael Hemmeler battled against the No. 48 doubles team, Amogh Prabhakar and David Hopkins of Wake Forest. After sophomore Jason Tahir and freshman Michael Redlicki put an easy first win on the board for the Blue Devils, courts one and three were in a contest to see who could finish first.
Luckily for the Blue Devils, Cunha and Hemmeler pulled out a tough 9-7 win before Wake Forest’s Jon Ho and Anthony Delcore could close out the set against juniors Fred Saba and Chris Mengel. That match was stopped with the Demon Deacons leading 7-5.
From the scoreboard alone, it looked like the Blue Devils would finish off Wake Forest, 4-0, after Tahir put up the second point for Duke in a 6-1, 6-2 smackdown against Delcore, followed by No. 6 Cunha with a 6-2, 6-1 win on court one.
But after Saba, Hemmeler and Mengel all went down against their opponents, the match came down to court three. In a third set tiebreaker against Prabhakar, Redlicki could not turn the tiebreaker in his favor, dropping all seven points.
“Obviously we’re disappointed with the results,” Smith said. “I think we had a team that was able to win [the tournament] and we just fell short.”
After an easy win Friday against Florida State, the Blue Devils were not prepared for a tougher Wake Forest team.
“We lacked a sense of urgency and we didn’t have any edge,” Tahir said. “We just have to learn that we can’t take any team for granted and compete whenever we come onto the court.”
Smith said that his team has a lot of work to do before the NCAA Tournament rolls around, which includes practicing the way they intend to play.
“We get back to work on Wednesday with some hard practices,” Smith said. “Right now we’re going to do everything we can to prepare to have a really successful NCAA Tournament and finish the season strong.”