Duke’s run in the ITA All-American Championship came to a close this past Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
After five tough days in the qualifying rounds earlier this past week, three Blue Devils took part in the championship draw of the singles tournament—senior Jason Tahir, junior Bruno Semenzato and freshman Nicolas Alvarez. Both Semenzato—who received a lucky loser’s bid—and Tahir competed in the consolation draw after losing in the first round of the main draw. This tournament is the biggest of the fall season and boasts the 64 best players from around the country in the draw.
The breakthrough performance of this tournament for the Blue Devil squad belonged to Alvarez. This was the first time since 2000—when current head coach Ramsey Smith and former Duke player Marko Cerenko advanced in the championship—that the Blue Devils have had a player move into the quarterfinals of the ITA All-American singles main draw. Following a first round victory against California’s Andre Goransson, the freshman went on to knock off No. 5 seed Jared Hiltzik of Illinois 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 in a comeback victory to gain a spot in the round of 16. He kept up the strong play against South Florida’s Roberto Cid in the next round, once again pulling out a three-set victory 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
“For [Alvarez], coming in as a freshman, making it through [qualifiers], winning three more matches in the main draw and reaching the quarterfinals… is a pretty amazing achievement for anyone, but especially amazing for a freshman,” Smith said. “This is his second-ever college tournament, and he obviously did the best of any freshman in the country, which is encouraging.”
With his run to the quarterfinals of the main draw, Alvarez has now qualified for the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., in November. In the quarterfinals , No. 2 seed Yannick Hanfmann from USC proved to be too strong a competitor and cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 victory against Alvarez.
“It’s All-Americans, it’s the biggest tournament of the fall, it’s a big national stage that everyone gets a shot at. To have two guys break through is pretty neat,” Smith said. “It’s pretty amazing how much [Alvarez] has improved just since he got here. I think four of the six guys he played play number one for their team, he beat two top-15 ranked guys in the country and he handled himself well in difficult moments against more veteran college players.”
Semenzato, who took on Connor Glennon of Memphis, dropped a close first set 6-7 (5) but was able to bounce back with a decisive 7-5, 6-0 in the next two sets for the victory Friday morning. Maintaining that momentum against Tennessee’s Hunter Reese, Semenzato won handily, posting a 6-4, 6-2 victory to move into the quarterfinals of the consolation draw. But his run ended there, where he fell in a tight contest 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3 against Ohio State’s Chris Diaz. Tahir fell 6-4, 6-2 to Tennessee’s Mikelis Libietis in the first round of consolation, ending his time in Tulsa.
The final of the All-Americans will be played Monday morning at 10 a.m., and though there are no Blue Devils in the event, both the finalists ousted a Duke player in the earlier rounds. Semenzato lost to Lousiville’s Sebastian Stiefelmeyer in the first round of the main draw 4-6, 6-2, 6-0, and Alvarez was knocked out by Hanfmann in the quarterfinals.
“It gives the team confidence, even the guys who maybe didn’t play as well at All-Americans. It just shows that we have a lot of players that can compete at the highest level against the top players in college,” Smith said. “I expect this to motivate the rest of the team for the rest of the fall.”
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