With pouring rain outside, the Blue Devils returned indoors to the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center—and returned to their winning ways in the process.
Duke swept its third double-header of the season Sunday, downing Louisville 5-2 in the afternoon before taking care of N.C. Central 6-1 Sunday evening. The Blue Devils had no problems dispatching the Cardinals—who remain the ACC’s lone winless team—to improve their conference resume with a much-needed win before beating the shorthanded Eagles to get back to .500 for the season.
“Throughout the year, we have had situations where we got a little discouraged and got down,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “We are not looking the way we should on the court. We are not exuding confidence and sometimes you are going to fake it until you make it. I thought we did better job with that today.”
After dropping the doubles point in a loss to Virginia Tech Friday, the Blue Devils (10-10, 3-4 in the ACC) got back in the win column with strong doubles play followed up with energetic singles performances, even though Louisville (11-12, 0-7) pushed them to three sets on four courts.
In doubles against the Cardinals, freshman Jason Lapidus and senior Daniel McCall came out aggressively on court two, pressuring the Cardinals with fierce hits at the net. The Blue Devil pair quickly jumped ahead 2-0 after breaking the serve of Louisville freshman George Hedley, and went on to dominate the last four games to finish the set 6-0.
“I thought [court] two was tremendous,” Smith said. “Those guys played unbelievably. Winning 6-0 in the ACC at any number is awesome against two of their best players, their one and three players. That really set the tone. They played their best matches of the year.”
On court three, captains Nicolas Alvarez and T. J. Pura cruised through the first three games with a 3-0 lead. Alvarez held off opponents with his savvy baseline hits, and let Pura move around in the frontcourt. But soon both sides were plagued with errors and the Cardinals capitalized, narrowing the deficit to 5-3. In the next game, the Blue Devil duo hit the ball with more precision, finishing off a 6-3 win to secure the doubles point for Duke.
On court one, freshmen Catalin Mateas and Vincent Lin led their Cardinal counterparts 5-4 before the match was abandoned.
The Cardinals came out desperate to even the score in singles, but Duke was up to the task. On court one, No. 19 Alvarez and Louisville freshman Christopher Morin-Kougoucheff got tangled in long baseline rallies from the beginning of their match. Alvarez pulled in front 4-0 in the first set with his top-spin attack, but Morin-Kougoucheff worked his way back to within 5-4 after an Alvarez double-fault. The captain recovered, though, breaking Morin-Kougoucheff’s serve to clinch the first set, 6-4.
In the second set, Alvarez added more net play into his offense, taking the set with ease, 6-2.
Court three provided one of the most entertaining matches of the day. After winning the first set 6-3, Lin struggled through most of the second frame against the taller and stronger Hedley. The Cardinal freshman hit the ball forcefully and took full advantage of Lin’s errors en route to a 6-1 victory to even the match.
Hedley kept his hot hand going in the first three games of the final set. But trailing 3-0, Lin started to fight back after a break. Bit by bit, the Blue Devil freshman built up momentum and evened the set at three games apiece before taking care of the next three as well, delivering an emphatic 6-3 victory with a long aggressive baseline sequence.
“[Assistant coach Jonathan] Stokke was a really big part of that,” Lin said. “He helped me bow through the frustrations from the second set. At that moment when I went down 3-0, I decided to just turn the switch on the energy and just focused on being energetic and just found my way back and not getting too frustrated.”
On court six, freshman Ryan Dickerson quickly dispatched his opponent with two swift 6-3 victories to clinch the win for Duke.
In the remaining three single matches, freshman Catalin Mateas added one more point for the Blue Devils after his tiebreaker victory in the second set on court two. Louisville junior Sean Donohue and senior Jeffrey Brown claimed the only two points for the Cardinals, defeating Josh Levine and Pura in three sets, respectively.
In the evening doubles, Mateas and Lin blitzed through N.C. Central’s Kert Kilumets and Thomas Persico on court two, 6-2. After dominating the Cardinals in the afternoon, Lapidus and McCall struggled against Davide Callegari and Gabriel Cucalon on court one. Tied at 6-6, the two sides went into a tiebreaker, which the Blue Devils claimed 7-5 to finish off the second doubles point of the day.
The Eagles (1-11) have only five players on their roster and were forced to forfeit one singles and one doubles match, giving Duke a 2-0 lead heading into singles.
In the remaining five singles matches, most of the Blue Devils took care of business in just two sets. Sophomore Andre Dejoy blanked N.C. Central junior Dillon Strepay with two 6-0 sweeps on court five to put Duke ahead 3-0, and Dickerson dispatched his opponent 6-1, 6-0 to secure the Blue Devil victory for the second time in a few hours.
On court three, Callegari defeated Duke freshman Adrian Chamdani 6-3, 5-7, 1-0 to record the lone win for the Eagles.
The Blue Devils will return to action Sunday against Virginia before making a short road trip to Wake Forest.
“It could definitely be a turning point,” Lin said. “We’ve had a rough season. I really feel like we can do something big. We have a couple tough matches ahead of us. But I feel like we are having more fun than before. So I think going into the future [we] will be much better.”
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