Perfection will be on the line once again for the Blue Devils this weekend.
A little more than halfway through the spring season, No. 6 Duke will look to extend its home record to 11-0, hosting 3 p.m. matches against N.C. State Friday and No. 12 Wake Forest Sunday at the Ambler Tennis Stadium.
The Blue Devils have had a productive week of practice after a dominant 6-1 victory against Miami last week. With a demanding schedule of ACC contests on the horizon, the team must now get used to short weeks of practices, with two matches per weekend for the remainder of the regular season. This week, the team has been focusing on fine-tuning their doubles play.
“Each [doubles] team is working on some different things,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “Overall, we’re trying to be aggressive and play doubles on our terms, so that’s been a big emphasis. N.C. State and Wake both have a very good doubles, so we need to make sure we’re ready to go.”
The ACC remains one of the toughest conferences in the country, featuring five teams in the top 20. Duke’s packed conference agenda begins with N.C. State Friday.
Boasting a roster of veterans, the Wolfpack, (10-6, 0-3 in the ACC) looks to gain their first win in conference play. N.C. State will turn to seniors Austin Powell and Robbie Mudge to carry the team in singles. Powell boasts a No. 72 ranking in the latest ITA Poll, and Mudge shines in the number two singles spot with a 9-1 record on court two the season.
“N.C. State is a very good team,” Smith said. “They have a lot of upperclassmen and guys that have been around for a while, as we do. [It's] going to be two really good challenges, I’m looking forward to it.”
The Blue Devil roster contains a strong lineup of veterans as well, led by Raphael Hemmeler, who has notched 25 singles and 24 doubles wins on the season. Freshman Nicolas Alvarez has also been a strong asset to the team, earning a No. 11 spot in the latest ITA rankings. However, the Lima, Peru, native was absent from play in the team’s most recent victory over Miami due to injury.
“Nicolas [Alvarez] has been fighting some injuries and he’s been recovering well, we’re hoping to have him back soon,” Smith said.
Following Friday’s contest, Duke (14-12, 1-1) will shift its focus to Wake Forest (12-4, 2-1) Sunday as it challenges the Demon Deacons for the second time this season. In their last encounter in January, the Blue Devils triumphed 4-1, although the Demon Deacons fought hard, taking three matches to three sets.
“We played Wake early in the season in the kickoff and we won a tight match,” Smith said. “They’re twelfth in the country and they’re a couple points away from being a lot higher, they’ve lost a couple tough 4-3s. So we know what to expect with them.”
Although Duke leads the series 84-15, topping Wake Forest will be no easy feat as the Demon Deacons have some momentum coming into the weekend after winning four straight matches, three of which were 7-0 routs. The Demon Deacon lineup features No. 12 Romain Bogaerts and No. 63 freshman Noah Rubin, who earned ACC Player of the Week honors after three straight singles victories, including an upset of top-ranked Sebastain Stiefelmeyer.
With their long-term sights set on the ACC and NCAA tournaments, the Blue Devils are looking to use each match as a learning experience to prepare themselves for a post-season run.
“We’re just trying to improve and we want to make sure each guy and as a team, we’re playing our best tennis by the end of the season,” Smith said.
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