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Quartet of Blue Devils begin NCAA singles play Wednesday

Senior Raphael Hemmeler will compete in both the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments this week in Waco, Texas.
Senior Raphael Hemmeler will compete in both the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments this week in Waco, Texas.

With the team NCAA tournament all wrapped up, four Blue Devils will continue their seasons in the national singles and doubles tournament.

A trio of Duke seniors—Ester Goldfeld on the women's side and Jason Tahir and Raphael Hemmeler for the men—will look to close their careers with deep runs in the NCAA singles tournament, which kicks of Wednesday at the Hurd Tennis Center in Waco, Texas. Freshman Nicolas Alvarez also earned a bid to the men's singles tournament as the lone seeded player in the quartet.

Alvarez will also join Hemmeler as a doubles tandem when the doubles tournament begins play Thursday.

Senior Ester Goldfeld will begin first-round play in the NCAA singles tournament Wednesday morning.

Goldfeld has familiarity with her first-round opponent—Alabama's Erin Routliffe—having defeated the Crimson Tide sophomore 6-0, 7-6 (7-4) Feb. 8. Both players were ranked in the top 40 in the most recent ITA poll. First serve is scheduled for 10 a.m.

The rematch will provide an opportunity for Goldfeld to bounce back from a straight-set loss to Georgia's Ellen Perez in the Bulldogs' second-round victory against the Blue Devils May 10, ending Duke's season.

On the men's side, head coach Ramsey Smith has three representatives in the 64-player field for just the third time since 2002—a season during which the Blue Devils climbed to the No. 2 spot in the ITA poll and advanced to the NCAA tournament's Round of 16.

Hemmeler, Tahir and Alvarez already have experience this month on the courts at the Hurd Tennis Center, which also hosted the final four rounds of the team championship. Duke was swept 4-0 in its Round of 16 match against 2014 national champion Southern California.

Hemmeler will be the first of the trio to hit the courts Wednesday, as he will take on Illinois' Jared Hiltzik, ranked 23rd in the country. Alvarez will line up opposite No. 40 Alen Salibasic of Drake at 12:30 p.m. Tahir will round out the day for the Blue Devils with a matchup against the most formidable of the three first-round opponents—a 1:30 p.m. match against Julian Lenz, the No. 2 player in the country from the host school, Baylor.

Second-round action continues Thursday for any of the four Duke players who advance out of the first round—the same day that Alvarez and Hemmeler open doubles play. The 20th-ranked duo in the country will take on Kyle Koch and Thiago Pinheiro of South Carolina, who are ranked 29th.

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