Few things in sports are more thrilling than pulling off an upset over a higher-ranked competitor, someone heavily favored to win.
It's too bad Blue Devil tennis player Doug Root couldn't stage this sort of upset twice.
On Friday, the 25th-ranked Root defeated UCLA's Vince Allegre, who is ranked No. 4 in the country, in straight sets (6-4, 6-1) in the second round of the Rolex National Indoor Championships.
"I felt pretty confident the whole tournament that if I just concentrated well and played well for the big points, I'd do all right," he said.
The sophomore then proceeded to dispatch 34th-ranked James Blake of Harvard, 6-1, 7-6 (4) to advance to Saturday's semifinal round.
Unfortunately for Root, however, the magic seemed to have worn off. He met his match in second-seeded and second-ranked Pavel Kudrnac, and this time, another upset was not in store as Oklahoma's Kudrnac came away with the 7-6 (2), 6-4 win. Root attributes the loss to several factors, including the caliber of the competition, a plethora of unforced errors on his part and a possible hip injury.
"I made a lot of unforced errors," Root said. "Also I don't know what I did actually yet, but I pulled I think my hip flexor or something, so I had a hard time serving. But he's a really good player.... It was really a combination of things."
Before facing Allegre, Root had upended 68th-ranked Nenad Toroman of Tulsa, 6-3, 6-4.
And Root didn't even know if he would be going to the tournament until just two days before the start of competition. As the Rolex National Indoors is one of the most highly selective collegiate tennis tournaments in the country and the third leg of the ITA Collegiate Grand Slam, only the nation's top-32 players qualify or are invited to participate. Root found out on Tuesday that he had made it into the field as an alternate.
Root credits his progress in the tournament with an improvement in his serving. Although he felt off balance in previous meets, Root thought that at this weekend's tournament his serve and volley finally fell in sync.
In the doubles competition, Root teamed up with junior Jordan Wile, but the pair was quickly relegated to the consolation round after suffering a loss to brothers Bob and Mike Bryan of Stanford. The 1997 All-American duo defeated the teams of David McNamara and Julius Roberts from Middle Tennessee State and Toby Hansson and Jon Wallmark of SMU before falling to Notre Dame's Brian Patterson and Jakub Pietrowski.
"They're a tough team," Root said of Bob and Mike Bryan. "They advanced to the finals, so it's not like we lost to bad players. They're both really good. Jordan wasn't as fresh coming out. He hadn't played a match, and we'd both been waiting around all day. They just played well, and we rebounded well after that."
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Duke will begin its dual meet competition on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. when it faces Virginia Tech at the Chapel Hill Tennis Club.