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Duke men's tennis rolls to victories against Coastal Carolina, Charlotte to open outdoor season

<p>Senior TJ Pura and the Blue Devils&nbsp;looked sharp in their first two outdoor matches of 2017.&nbsp;</p>

Senior TJ Pura and the Blue Devils looked sharp in their first two outdoor matches of 2017. 

Following a doubleheader sweep indoors two weeks ago, the Blue Devils kept the momentum going with two more wins at home to kick off outdoor play.

Duke cruised past Coastal Carolina 7-0 Saturday morning and followed it up with a 6-1 win against Charlotte at Ambler Tennis Stadium. The Blue Devils were still missing their top player, No. 12 Nicolas Alvarez, who has not played since Jan. 11 due to a wrist injury, but had little trouble remaining unbeaten at home with 11 straight-set singles wins.

“Switching from indoor to outdoors, you have the elements,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “Conditions aren’t quite as clean, but I thought we adjusted really well and it's definitely going to help us going into ACC season.”

Smith elected to keep the lineup the same in both matches, with the freshmen trio of Nick Stachowiak, Robert Levine and Spencer Furman playing well in their doubles and singles matches. Duke (7-3) had to do without sophomore Vincent Lin, who left the program last week after he was the team's top singles player for most of its indoor season, but sophomore Catalin Mateas contributed a pair of straight-set victories at No. 1 singles.

Mateas had not won a singles match since Jan. 28 but benefitted from two weeks of rest and preparation between matches.

“Some of us were tired and hurting, so that helped a lot to get us healthy,” Mateas said. “We played a lot of points this week, and we had good practices the whole week.”

The Blue Devils began the day by easily taking the doubles point against Coastal Carolina. Stachowiak and Furman won 6-2 and sophomores Jason Lapidus and Ryan Dickerson coasted to a similar 6-3 outcome. Mateas and Levine were locked in a tight 4-4 set on Court 2 that was left unfinished.

Duke had stress-free wins in their doubles matches again versus Charlotte (5-6) later on in the day, with the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles tandems combining to lose just three games to earn the doubles point once again. At No. 3 doubles, Lapidus and Dickerson were also in control with a 5-2 lead against the 49ers before the Blue Devils clinched the point.

“We got better,” Smith said. “The first doubles, we just came out a little flat at 2 and played pretty well at 1 and 3. Our second match, I thought we did a great job with all six guys. I was really happy with our second doubles especially.”

In singles, Mateas routed Coastal Carolina’s Vuk Velickovic 6-2, 6-2 before facing a tougher opponent in Charlotte’s Sam Rice in a match affected by increased wind in the afternoon.

The two went back and forth in the first set, which featured a few lead changes, but Mateas fought off four set points to draw the set even at six games apiece. Mateas won the tiebreaker 7-4 to take the set and then dominated the second set 6-1.

“Neither of us played at our best,” Mateas said. “It was really windy today, not even in one direction. It felt like it was swirling around and that made it really tough."

Stachowiak and Levine, on Courts 2 and 3, respectively, won easily against both opponents, with both players losing six games or less in each of their matches. In the No. 4 spot, Furman also won in dominant fashion against the Chanticleers but had a little more trouble with the 49ers' Oriol Puig Forne before pulling out a 6-4, 7-5 win.

Dickerson dominated in only his second week of singles matchups on Court 6, with a 6-2, 6-0 rout of Coastal Carolina and a similar 6-0, 6-1 win over Charlotte. Sole senior TJ Pura also had a strong showing against the Chanticleers with an easy 6-3, 6-2 win—Coastal Carolina did not win more than four games in any set against the Blue Devils.

Pura struggled against Charlotte’s Max Benaim for Duke's only blemish of the day, though, winning the first set 7-5 but losing the second 4-6. With the team match already decided, the two finished by playing a super tiebreaker to 10 points, which Pura lost 10-5.

With the start of their ACC match season quickly approaching with a road trip to Virginia Tech next Saturday, Smith and the team hope to keep the momentum going after another week of practice.

“We have a full week of preparation before we go on the road to Virginia Tech," Smith said. "They’re always tough, especially at their place, so it’ll be a good challenge right off the bat. We’re going to just keep working on getting better.”