Duke has a lot at stake heading into its final weekend of ACC play.
The Blue Devils are riding a six-game winning streak as they head to Winston Salem, N.C, Friday to play No. 25 Wake Forest in a rematch of last year’s ACC Tournament semifinal. The team then heads back home to the Ambler Tennis Stadium to wrap-up their season against No. 8 North Carolina Sunday in a match that will likely determine the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament.
“This weekend’s going to be really fun. It’s a huge two matches against two really big rivals,” junior Jason Tahir said. “They both have really good teams so it should be really fun and a good measure heading into the ACC Tournament.”
While its match against North Carolina seems like the more important of the two, Duke (16-5, 9-1 in the ACC) knows it cannot overlook the Demon Deacons, especially on the road.
Wake Forest (3-6, 14-10) has been an extremely tough opponent to beat at home this season, losing just one home match during conference play—a tight 3-4 loss to No. 13 Notre Dame.
“We’re all just really looking forward to playing them,” Tahir said. “We want to reverse the result from the ACC Tournament where we felt we didn’t show up and compete as well as we could have.”
North Carolina (22-3, 9-1) also poses a significant challenge, as it has been one of the best teams in the country this season, with three singles players ranked in the top-30.
However, the Blue Devils do have the upper hand heading into Sunday's match against their local rivals, as they defeated the Tar Heels in a 4-2 victory in the ITA Kickoff Weekend finals back in January
“It shows that we can beat them, so we’ll have the confidence going into that,” Tahir said. “I also think that they’re going to be pretty fired up since they lost to us and they’ll want to get some revenge. I think it will be an incredibly close between two really good teams.”
The previous match between the two teams should not be an indicator of who is favored in this one, as both teams are drastically different from when they met earlier this season. North Carolina has been on a tear since losing to Duke, dropping only two matches since the January defeat—to No. 1 Ohio State and No. 4 Virginia.
On the other hand, the Blue Devils have been forced to overcome various injuries and the loss of their No. 1 player in Michael Redlicki. Duke has had to reshuffle its lineup and doubles teams as a result.
The match is not only important for momentum and seeding heading into the ACC Tournament, but also has implications for seeding for the NCAA Championships.
“We just want to get the win for ranking purposes so we can host at the end of the year for NCAA’s,” Tahir said.
Sunday’s match will also be an emotional one for the Blue Devils, as it will be Senior Day for lone senior Fred Saba. Duke will try its best to send him off with one last victory.
“We’re just going to be playing our hearts out for Fred and I know he’ll do the same,” Tahir said. “It’ll be an awesome experience.”