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Contributions across the board highlight a 6-1 win at Virginia Tech for Duke men's tennis to open ACC play

<p>Senior TJ Pura played doubles Saturday with freshman Robert Levine out, and after notching a win on Court 3 then added a win at No. 4 singles.</p>

Senior TJ Pura played doubles Saturday with freshman Robert Levine out, and after notching a win on Court 3 then added a win at No. 4 singles.

After falling short in their first three road dual matchups of the season, the Blue Devils wanted to make a statement in their ACC opener.

Thanks to contributions across the board, they did just that.

Duke routed Virginia Tech 6-1 Saturday afternoon at the Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center in Blacksburg, Va. The Blue Devils started ACC play on the right note with commanding singles performances by sophomore Catalin Mateas and freshman Spencer Furman to pick up their fifth consecutive win.

Although freshman Robert Levine was out with an illness and top singles player Nicolas Alvarez remains sidelined by a wrist injury, senior TJ Pura stepped up with a rare appearance in doubles. The grizzled veteran teamed with sophomore Catalin Mateas for the first time this season and the duo pulled off a crucial 6-4 victory on Court 3 against Henrik Korsgaard and Jason Kros by winning the last two games. 

Freshmen Nick Stachowiak and Spencer Furman then extended their winning streak to 13 by dropping the tandem of Abraham Asaba and Jai Corbett with an identical 6-4 ledger to secure the doubles point and send the Blue Devils (8-3, 1-0 in the ACC) off to the races.

“TJ hasn’t played a lot of doubles recently,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “But, I thought he did a tremendous job bringing the energy. He and Cat were down a break, but turned things around … and that really gave us a boost.”

Despite losing the doubles point, the Hokies (4-6, 0-1) bounced back to tie the match with a quick win at No. 6 singles as junior Freddy Mesmer triumphed 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) against sophomore Jason Lapidus. Saturday marked the Durham native's first singles action since Feb. 12, and the rust showed. 

But the Blue Devils were unfazed and quickly regained the lead with Mateas and Furman registering back-to-back singles wins. Mateas played at No. 2 singles after spending the last three matches at No. 1 and dominated Alexandre Ribeiro 6-2, 6-4. 

Furman earned a bump up to No. 3 singles with Levine out of the lineup and did not disappoint, registering a 7-5, 6-4 victory to give his team a commanding 3-1 lead at almost the exact same time Mateas won.

“They really had to fight for the last couple games,” Smith said. “They played with a lot of emotion, a lot of energy and that really gave us a boost.”

Pura clinched the match for the Blue Devils at No. 4 singles. The Pacific Palisades, Calif., native upset the 97th-ranked player in the country in Korsgaard 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 for his first match-sealing win of the season. After dropping the first set, the senior did not look back and dominated the rest of the way to grab his first victory against a top 100 opponent this season. 

After his team had already clinched the match, Stachowiak win at No. 1 singles was the cherry on top. The freshman knocked off the 49th-ranked player in the country—Jai Corbett. The rookie was locked in a tight battle trading the first two sets before prevailing in a tight third set to come out on top, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. 

The victory extended Stachowiak’s winning streak in singles to 14 matches—the longest by a Duke player since Pura had his own 14-match streak during the 2013-14 season.

“I saw a whole lot of heart from [Nick],” Smith said. “He got down a break early in the third and kind of lost the momentum.… But he really handled some adversity well with the match. He always seems to step up in big moments.”

The Blue Devils also ended the day on top as sophomore Ryan Dickerson won at No. 5 singles in another close match 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4). In the final tiebreak, the Marlton, N.J. native fell behind 3-1, but then rattled off six of the final seven points to take the match. He now has a 5-0 record in dual matches this season.

Duke has a tough test up next as the Blue Devils will travel down to take on No. 6 North Carolina on Tuesday in their second ACC contest. Duke will then take on No. 3 Wake Forest and 11th-ranked UCLA as its schedule toughens. 

“We’re just focusing on one match at a time,” Smith said. “We know it’s a tough stretch here with a lot of really good opportunities. We talked earlier in the week about not looking ahead to some of these other matches and preparing as hard as we can to be ready for each match.”

Amrith Ramkumar contributed reporting.

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