After a tough loss to rival and No. 5 North Carolina on Tuesday, Duke had to turn around and face another top-five ACC foe Sunday afternoon.
And although the Blue Devils had some chances and fought hard again, the talent disparity against a national title contender was evident.
Second-ranked Wake Forest upended Duke 5-2 at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center. The Demon Deacons overcame a solid Blue Devil start in doubles to still win the doubles point, then quickly reeled off singles wins on Courts 1 and 2 to go up 3-0 and eventually dispatched a shorthanded team playing without star Nicolas Alvarez—the 17th ranked player in the country—who is sidelined with a wrist injury and freshman Robert Levine, who missed his third consecutive match due to illness.
Although Duke rookie Spencer Furman upset the No. 5 singles player in the country, the Blue Devils were overpowered once again.
Duke (8-5, 1-2 in the ACC) fought hard to win the doubles point and stay in the match early against Wake Forest (13-1, 2-0), with doubles being one of the Blue Devils' strengths this season. Although sophomores Ryan Dickerson and Jason Lapidus fell 6-4 on Court 2, sophomore Catalin Mateas and senior TJ Pura brought Duke level in doubles with a 6-4 victory at No. 3 doubles.
That set up a dramatic finish to the doubles point on Court 1, where Blue Devil rookies Furman and Nick Stachowiak battled the No. 2 tandem in the nation. Furman and Stachowiak showed why they entered the day unbeaten in doubles by splitting the first six games with their Demon Deacon foes Skander Mansouri and Christian Seraphim. But as it did on Court 2, Wake Forest grabbed two of the next three games to take an early 1-0 lead on the road.
“I thought the freshmen played a great match against Seraphim and Mansouri,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith told GoDuke.com. “[They] had a couple no-ad points we didn’t get on their serves and doubles comes down to a point or two.”
Wake Forest quickly captured points at No. 1 and No. 2 singles as Mateas was no match for the No. 2 singles player in the country, Petros Chrysochos, falling 6-2, 6-2. Stachowiak battled gamely at No. 2 singles and tied things up 4-4 in the first set before 76th-ranked Borna Gojo rattled off eight straight games to win the match, 6-4, 6-0.
Pura attempted to start a Blue Devil comeback with his victory at No. 4 singles. The senior fell behind 3-1 in the second set before recovering to take the last five games and clinch a 6-2, 6-3 victory. Pura was also the only Duke player to record a victory on Tuesday against North Carolina, making this a great week for the Pacific Palisades, Calif., native.
“[TJ] has so much pride for the program and for Duke,” Smith said. “He’s just such a good fighter, he’s not always playing his best tennis, but he kind of wills his way to win.”
The Demon Deacons stifled the comeback attempt with a match-clinching victory at No. 5 singles. No. 37 Seraphim overpowered Dickerson 6-3, 6-4, then the visitors padded their margin of victory with another win at No. 6 singles when Lapidus fell in a second set tiebreaker 6-3, 7-6 (5). The sophomore battled back from multiple two-game deficits in the second set, but was eventually worn down in the second-set tiebreak.
“[Jason] has very limited singles experience,” Smith said. “But, he’s getting exponentially better with each match, so he just needs to stay positive and keep working.”
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The other bright spot on the day for the Blue Devils was the play of Furman, who triumphed at No. 3 singles against Mansouri 5-7, 6-4, 1-0 (10-6). Mansouri won a hard-fought first set before the freshman rallied to take the second set, forcing a first-to-10 super tiebreaker of a third set. The Seattle native jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but then fell behind 5-4 before recovering to reclaim the lead and the match.
The victory was is the highest-ranked victory of Furman’s young career, as he improved his record to 10-3 in dual matches.
“[Spencer] has worked extremely hard,” Smith said. “He’s practicing at 6:30 couple times a week, doing extra stuff. He just feels like he deserves to break through and win those matches. But, you can’t substitute big wins, that’s something like a shot of adrenaline into his confidence and that’s going to help him the rest of the season for sure.”
Smith's team will next face another tough test as the Blue Devils head west to take on No. 13 UCLA Thursday. The match will be Duke’s fifth road contest against a top-20 team so far this season, a major challenge lot to handle for such a young team.