CARY, N.C.—Playing without its most consistent singles competitior and half of its usual top doubles tandem, the Blue Devils had no trouble moving out of the first round of the ACC tournament Thursday afternoon.
No. 9 Duke advanced to Friday's quarterfinals with a 4-0 sweep against Miami at the Cary Tennis Park. The fifth-seeded Blue Devils defeated the 12th-seeded Hurricanes without freshman Nicolas Alvarez, Duke’s top-ranked player and most consistent starter—in the No. 1 singles spot due to injury.
The Blue Devils started off the match against Miami by winning the doubles point with victories on courts one and two. The top doubles team of senior Jason Tahir and junior Josh Levine—who started in place of Alvarez—took down the Hurricanes’ team of Henrique Tsukamoto and Piotr Lomacki 8-4. At the second doubles position, sophomore T.J. Pura and junior Bruno Semenzato beat the team of Wilfredo Gonzalez and Bernard Tefel by the same score.
“Doubles was good today,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “I thought [Pura and Semenzato] did a really good job, and played with a lot of intensity. [Tahir and Levine] went down 3-0, but they did not get rattled and only lost one more [game in that match] and really got rolling."
The third doubles match, which pitted Duke’s team of senior Raphael Hemmeler and junior Daniel McCall against Miami’s Nile Clark and Christian Langmo, was left unfinished with the Hurricanes leading 7-6 in a match that went back and forth.
Pura was the first Blue Devil to secure a singles victory with a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Clark at No. 6 singles. Shortly after, Semenzato propelled Duke (22-5) to a commanding 3-0 lead after topping Tsukamoto 6-2, 6-3 on court three. The Sao Paulo, Brazil, native—who usually plays in the fourth singles position for the Blue Devils—had to move up one spot against the Hurricanes (7-17) due to Alvarez's injury.
“I really like being challenged,” Semenzato said, “I just see it is a great opportunity to step up my game and do well.”
Duke clinched the match with a victory at fifth singles. Levine defeated Miami's Kevin Bondar by a score of 7-5, 6-2. Levine, who had not played in the singles lineup for the majority of the year, was given the opportunity to compete Thursday with the injury to Alvarez.
“[Levine] has been really good, especially recently. He has dealt with some injuries, and he did not play singles for a little while," Smith said. "We put him in against Georgia Tech [in the last game of the regular season]. He won a big match for us there, and he won a big one for us today, clinching [the match].”
The other three matches were abandoned after Levine's straight-set victory. Tahir, No. 70 Hemmeler and redshirt senior Chris Mengel each dropped the opening set to their respective Hurricane opponents when the match was clinched. Playing the only singles match between ranked foes at the first singles position, No. 46 Tahir led No. 85 Lomacki in the second set looking to even the match.
Hemmeler was even with Langmo 4-4 in his second set. Mengel sat out the regular season camapign in Atlanta with Alvarez resting an injury, but returned to the lineup Thursday and held a 3-2 advantage on Tefel in the second set after dropping the first set, 7-5.
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Safely into the quarterfinals, the Blue Devils will face off Friday at noon against North Carolina, which swept Boston College 4-0 to set up a rematch of the regular season contest between the Tobacco Road Rivals just two weeks ago. North Carolina topped the Blue Devils 5-2 April 9.
“[North Carolina] got the better of us at their place on Senior Day,” Smith said. “I did not feel like we played our best tennis, so we are certainly looking to get another shot at them. They are obviously a great team, having played well, but so are we, and we are especially excited for tomorrow.”