Duke men's tennis opens season, Alvarez thrives at ITA Masters

<p>Sophomore Nicolas Alvarez finished second at the Oracle/ITA Masters in Malibu, Calif., starting his season on a high note with a strong showing against some of the nation’s top players.</p>

Sophomore Nicolas Alvarez finished second at the Oracle/ITA Masters in Malibu, Calif., starting his season on a high note with a strong showing against some of the nation’s top players.

CARY, N.C.—The Duke James Bonk Invite proved to be the perfect warm-up for the Blue Devils’ fall season. With five new freshmen on the roster and only two practices under their belt, Duke went into its opening event looking to see where it stood.

Freshman Vincent Lin captured the consolation prize in one of three singles brackets Sunday at the Cary Tennis Park, one of several Blue Devils to make a favorable first impression this weekend. On the other side of the country, seventh-ranked sophomore Nicolas Alvarez claimed second place at the Oracle/ITA Masters, playing against some of the nation’s best competition.

The Blue Devils kicked off the weekend Friday in Cary on a high note, capturing four doubles and two singles wins, including victories by freshmen Lin, Jason Lapidus and Adrian Chamdani. Duke fought through Saturday with eight singles losses and three doubles losses, including a close singles match by Chamdani, who fell to Wake Forest’s Sam Bloom 3-6, 3-6 in the quarterfinals after beating Courtney Lock of Louisiana-Lafayette 6-2, 6-2 Friday.

The multiple wins in the back draws on Sunday, and the opportunity for the coaches to better understand what makes their new players tick, gave the Blue Devils a better idea of what they need to work on for their upcoming tournaments in October.

“What we are trying to do is just get better,” Duke assistant head coach Jonathan Stokke said. “That sounds super simple, but we have three freshmen and [sophomore Andrew DeJoy] has only played in a handful of matches, so it was all just kind of getting to know them. We have only had two team practices so we haven’t really worked on much, so really a lot of it was, for us as coaches, trying to figure out what they like to do and for them to feel like they got better by the end of their first tournament.”

On Sunday, the Blue Devils made up for their first and second round losses with a win by Lin in the consolation finals against Mario Paccini of Elon, 6-3, 7-5, and a seventh-place victory by senior Josh Levine against another Phoenix, Robert Lindgren, 6-3, 6-2.

The three-day tournament featured three color-coded brackets and pushed the freshmen to heighten their game as they stepped onto the court for the first time as Blue Devils. Two of the three freshmen finished the tournament with a win Sunday, including Lapidus, who struggled in the beginning of the tournament but managed to pull through with a 6-2, 6-3 victory against Michael Ogden of N.C. State for 15th place in the blue bracket.

Chamdani suffered a tough loss in the fight for fifth place in the white bracket, falling in a tough match against Dante Saleh of Auburn, 3-6, 4-6. Upperclassmen DeJoy and senior Daniel McCall also lost in straight sets—McCall fell 6-7 (0), 3-6 to Jacob Nicolussi of Old Dominion and DeJoy dropped a 1-6, 1-6 match to Nikhil Mannepalli of Radford.

The Duke coaching staff took the first event of the fall season to analyze its players’ games so that it can make necessary changes and perform as a cohesive unit in the upcoming ITA All-American tournament in Tulsa, Okla., in the beginning of October. With head coach Ramsey Smith away with sophomore Nicolas Alvarez in Malibu, Calif., for the Oracle/ITA Masters, Stokke and volunteer assistant coach Jason Tahir switched frequently between matches, offering advice to as many of their players as possible.

“[I want them to be] working on professionalism, just taking care of themselves, coming out prepared, stretching, warm-ups and scouting their opponents—that type of thing,” Stokke said. “I think for all of them the big thing is learning to handle [score] adversity.”


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