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No. 3 Virginia overwhelms Duke men's tennis in third sets

<p>The Blue Devils took the Cavaliers to three sets on four of the six singles courts, but fell on all four as No. 3 Virginia beat Duke 6-1 Sunday.</p>

The Blue Devils took the Cavaliers to three sets on four of the six singles courts, but fell on all four as No. 3 Virginia beat Duke 6-1 Sunday.

After taking care of N.C. State 5-2 Friday afternoon, the Blue Devils returned home looking for a fourth straight win, but could not close out their singles matches late in sets.

No. 3 Virginia seemed to have all the answers Sunday, downing Duke 6-1 Sunday afternoon at Ambler Tennis Stadium. The Cavaliers dominated the doubles point to grab an early lead, then held on through a tough singles slate as Duke tightened things up and played with more energy in the singles portion of the contest. Senior Josh Levine recorded the lone Blue Devil point of the day with his singles victory against Virginia junior J.C. Aragone to even the match at one, but the Cavaliers claimed the five remaining singles matches to win handily, even though four of those matches went to three sets.

“They dictated in the doubles, but in singles I thought we rebounded extremely well. All six matches were extremely competitive,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “We lost a really tough straight-set match with T.J. [Pura] where he had set point in the first set. Josh was able to win in straights and the other four matches were all three-setters. Obviously we were right there, but we just had a little trouble shutting the door. I think a lot of that was due to Virginia and their experience and them being really good in the big moments.”

Freshman Jason Lapidus and senior Daniel McCall jumped out to a 1-0 lead in doubles against the No. 8 Virginia pair of Thai-son Kwiatkowski and Mac Styslinger on court two. But the Cavaliers (17-3, 7-1 in the ACC) took control of the game with balanced offense at the baseline and the net, and after tying the set at 2-2, Virginia won four straight games to close it out, 6-2.

On court three, Duke captains Pura and Nicolas Alvarez went toe-to-toe with the Cavalier tandem of Aragone and Collin Altamirano. Tied at 3-3, Virginia capitalized on the Blue Devils’ hitting errors and took the ensuing three games, securing the doubles point for the Cavaliers.

Facing the No. 2 duo of Ryan Shane and Luca Corinteli on court one, freshmen Vincent Lin and Catalin Mateas held their own, trailing 4-5 before the match was abandoned.

“It’s the first ‘top’ top team that we played. This is arguably the best team in the country,” Smith said. “Honestly I think they are just a little bit better than us in doubles at all three spots. I just felt like we just had a little bit nerves coming out there against that type of big-serve, big-hitting [styles] that they brought us in doubles.”

The Blue Devils (11-11, 4-5) forced two tiebreakers and four three-set decisions. But Virginia was able to gain the upper hand late in the action and secured all but one singles game.

After the slow start, Duke bounced back quickly in singles as Levine led all players off the singles courts. The senior trailed No. 88 Aragone 2-4 but recovered to take the first set, 6-4. The Syosset, N. Y., native jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the second frame, but the Cavalier junior slowly pulled himself back into the game—tying the set at 5-5—and forced a tiebreaker, which Levine claimed 7-3 to even the match.

Court one featured a clash between two of the top players in the nation as No. 8 Shane faced off against No. 19 Alvarez. The 6-foot-4 Cavalier opened up the first set with fast serves backed up with aggressive baseline returns en route to a 6-3 first-set victory. Alvarez responded with his own topspin attack in the second set and took advantage of Shane’s suspect serving accuracy, sending the match into a third frame with a 6-1 win.

In the decisive set, Shane regained his serving rhythm and punished Alvarez with his overpowering forehand. After a return error from the Blue Devil captain, Shane took the match with a 6-0 sweep to reclaim the lead for Virginia.

“He was one of the best players in the country,” Alvarez said. “He doesn’t make you feel comfortable any moment in the match. Even when you are winning points, it’s usually on his terms. That’s why he’s been so good. I felt better in the second set, especially because he gave me the opportunity to get into the match, gain some confidence with the break that led to another break. In the third set he stopped missing and I lowered my intensity and that was the difference.”

The Cavaliers ended any hopes for another Duke comeback as Corinteli came from behind to best freshman Adrian Chamdani 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 on court six, and Virginia clinched the match with Pura’s crushing 6-7, 3-6 defeat on court four. The junior forced the first set into a 6-6 tie in the tiebreaker, and after the referee ruled Pura’s net return out of bounds, Virginia sophomore Henrik Wiersholm claimed the next point to close out the tiebreaker 8-6. In the second frame, Pura kept himself in the set—evening the score at 3-3—until Wiersholm pulled ahead to win, 6-3.

In the remaining two contests, Mateas and Altamirano split the first two sets on court two before the No. 63 Cavalier sophomore clinched the third frame to end a match filled with baseline rally highlights. On court three, Lin came back to win the second set 6-4 after dropping the first-set tiebreaker 1-7, but No. 7 Kwiatkowski recovered with a 6-2 win to seal Virginia’s sixth win of the afternoon.

The Blue Devils will have a week to recover before continuing ACC play at Wake Forest Saturday.

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