The No. 9 Blue Devils are headed south this weekend, driving down to South Carolina for a matchup against No. 19 Clemson (14-3, 3-1 in the ACC) Friday followed by a trip to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech (8-10, 1-4) Sunday. This will close out Duke’s road matches for the regular season.
Last weekend, the Blue Devils (16-4, 4-1) showed they could take down a top-20 foe, even when facing adversity. Then-No. 19 Florida State managed to nab the doubles point by stifling Duke’s second and third doubles teams. This was just the fourth time this season that the Blue Devils had lost the doubles point, but they rebounded aggressively, winning all six singles matches to defeat the Seminoles 6-1.
“The main focus this week has been doubles,” Blue Devil head coach Ramsey Smith said. “Doubles has been one of our strong points the whole year, and I felt like we just needed to fine tune a couple of things. It’s late in the year so we are not making any major changes, just tweaks. I am not worried about our doubles, [last week] was only one of the few doubles points we have lost. We have very few matches left so we need to make sure we are prepared 100 percent for each match.”
As of April 3, the Blue Devils sit third in the ACC standings with Clemson just behind. The Tigers have one nationally ranked singles player, No. 26 Yannick Maden, who teams up with his brother Dominique Madden to form the 17th-ranked doubles tandem in the country. When the two teams faced off last year, Duke swept all seven possible points.
Georgia Tech sits in ninth place in the ACC standings and has lost its last 10 matches against Duke. Last season, the Blue Devils won 6-1. This Yellow Jacket team also only boasts two ranked competitors, No. 79 Juan Spir and the No. 3 ranked doubles duo of Spir and Vikram Hundal.
“We have talked about each guy taking care of his court,” Smith said. “In the college format it is easy for each guy to look around and hope your teammates win, but once we start singles it is just you out there, and we need to make sure that everyone is locked in and fully prepared and putting everything into every match for the rest of the year.”
The Duke lineup boasts the No. 1 doubles pairing in the country of Henrique Cunha and Raphael Hemmeler, as well as five players ranked in the top-100 nationally in singles. Cunha, who is ranked No. 5 in the nation, is still undefeated on the season and looks to extend his streak this weekend.
“He has had a phenomenal senior year, a phenomenal career,” Smith said. “But he has really been playing his best tennis right now. He has made some improvements and is playing with so much confidence, to be this deep in the year and having not lost a singles match playing with our schedule is almost unthinkable—almost impossible to do that. I am not worried about him wining every match, I just want him to keep going out there and competing like he has. It certainly sets a tone for the entire team knowing that we are so strong at that top position.”
Heading into this weekend, Smith has the ability to collect his 100th win in the five seasons he has coached the Blue Devils. He would become the fourth coach in program to accomplish that feat as well as the only one to win at least 100 matches as both a player and coach.
“We are confident,” Cunha said. “But we expect a battle.”
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