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Hot start propels Duke men's tennis past N.C. State 5-2

The Blue Devils improved to 102-2 all time against the Wolfpack

<p>Catalin Mateas recorded wins in singles and doubles Friday at N.C. State, improving his singles record to 14-7 on the year in his rookie campaign.</p>

Catalin Mateas recorded wins in singles and doubles Friday at N.C. State, improving his singles record to 14-7 on the year in his rookie campaign.

Duke has struggled to sustain strong play in many of its matches this spring but had no such issues Friday, continuing its dominance of an in-state rival thanks to another fast start.

The Blue Devils notched their third straight victory with a 5-2 win against N.C. State Friday at the J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center in Raleigh. Duke—which is now 102-2 overall against the Wolfpack—secured the doubles point and the first four singles matches to return to .500 in ACC play, and break a tie with N.C. State in the conference standings.

“This was our most complete match of the year,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “In doubles all the way through singles, I thought that everyone was locked in, and we really showed our toughness and handled adversity well today.”

The Blue Devils (11-10, 4-4 in the ACC) jumped out to an early lead with a doubles point win. On court one, the freshmen team of Catalin Mateas and Vincent Lin won the first match against Simon Norenius and Thomas Weigel by a score of 6-4. Shortly after, freshman Jason Lapidus and senior Daniel McCall defeated Nick Horton and Shoti Meparidze 7-5 in No. 2 doubles to clinch the doubles point for Duke.

Junior T.J. Pura and sophomore Nicolas Alvarez were leading Igor and Ivan Saveljic 5-4 on court three, but the match was left unfinished.

“Our energy and aggressiveness were very good, and I thought we stayed positive from start to finish," Smith said. "We were down a break [on court one] and we were down a break [on court three], but we battled back in both of those, winning [on court one] and we had match point [on court three], so all three doubles teams were great.”

The Blue Devils then immediately continued their momentum from the doubles win into singles play.

The first singles match to go final was a contest between Mateas and No. 85 Weigel, which Mateas won 6-3, 6-2. With the victory, the Braintree, Mass., native brought his overall record to 14-7, and 4-4 in conference play.

No. 19 Alvarez then gave Duke a 3-0 lead with a 6-1, 6-3 win against No. 44 Norenius at the No. 1 spot. The 6-foot-1 Blue Devil sophomore jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the first set—which he converted into a 6-1 win—and led 5-2 in the second set, before eventually grabbing his 14th win of the season.

“It was probably Nico’s best match of the year,” Smith said. “He just crushed [Norenius], who has been their best spot and been a rock at No. 1.”

With Duke just one match away from victory, all eyes turned toward Pura on court four, who started off slowly, but eventually found his rhythm. Pura rebounded from a 5-3 deficit in the first set against Igor Saveljic to eventually cruise to a 7-6 (4), 6-2 win, and clinch the match for the Blue Devils. With the victory, Pura moved to 12-12 overall this season.

After senior Josh Levine defeated Ivan Saveljic 5-7, 6-4, 1-0 (8) on court five for Duke's final win of the contest, the remaining two matches ended in the Wolfpack's favor. On court three, No. 77 Nick Horton downed Lin 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3). Up 5-3 in the second set, Lin had two opportunities to capture the set and force a third-set tiebreaker. But the Schaumburg, Ill., native struggled down the stretch as Horton won three of the next four games and then took the tiebreak.

N.C. State (15-11, 3-5) recorded its second win of the match when sixth-seeded Meparidze defeated McCall 7-5, 7-6 (5).

Duke hosts No. 3 Virginia Sunday at 3 p.m. at Ambler Tennis Stadium to complete this weekend’s slate of matches. The Blue Devils hope to feed off of the momentum of their current winning streak against the Cavaliers, who saw their eight-match winning streak end Friday 4-3 at No. 1 North Carolina.

“Going into the match against Virginia…. we will fine-tune a couple things,” Smith said. "But I think this win gives our team a lot of confidence."

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