As the great Yogi Berra once said, "It’s like déjà vu all over again."
In a rematch of last year’s ACC Championship quarterfinal, the 11th-ranked Blue Devils will face Virginia Tech as they start their quest for an ACC Championship Friday at noon at the Cary Tennis Park in Cary, N.C.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “By no means is that first match going to be an easy one.”
When these two teams met in last year’s ACC Championship, Duke (18-5, 10-1 in the ACC) swept the Hokies 4-0. However, the Blue Devils will be without three players from that meeting this time around.
Duke and Virginia Tech (14-10, 5-6) met earlier in the season, with the Blue Devils coming out on top 5-2. The victory should give the team some confidence heading into Friday’s match.
But Duke will have to be wary of the Hokies, as Friday's match will certainly not be one to be overlooked. Virginia Tech boasts an extremely formidable player in Amerigo Contini. Last year’s ACC Rookie of the Year, Contini is having another exceptional year for Virginia Tech and is the 24th-ranked player in the nation. The Hokies also boast the No. 44 doubles team in Andreas Bjerrehus and Contini.
“They’re tough. They’re a really good team and they’re a lot deeper than they’ve been in the past,” Smith said. “They compete really well and they’re always a tough out.”
The Blue Devils do have the advantage of having a bye through the first round and being able to watch the Hokies’ first round match against Wake Forest.
Should Duke make it past Virginia Tech, it will likely face North Carolina in the semifinal. The two rivals have already met twice earlier this season, with the Blue Devils coming out on top both times.
With such an intriguing match potentially ahead of them, it is important Duke stays focused on the quarterfinal match.
“Our guys have a lot of respect for all the teams in the conference,” Smith said. “We know that if we don’t win our first round, we’re not going to have a chance at anybody. We’re going to really stress to the guys how important it is to just focus one match at a time.”
Regardless of whom the Blue Devils play, they head into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation, having won eight straight matches.
During this win streak, the Blue Devils have received contributions from their entire lineup in singles and doubles, with several players playing some of the best tennis of their respective careers. Junior Jason Tahir recently moved up to No. 30 in the singles rankings—the highest ranking of his career—and senior Fred Saba ascended to No. 36.
If the Blue Devils keep up the same level of play that they have showed during their winning streak, they could find themselves with their first ACC Championship since 2006.
“My goal is for us to play our best every single match,” Smith said. “If we’re prepared and we’re competing the way that we’ve been doing, I feel like we can do some great things.”