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Duke men's tennis dispatches San Diego to advance to ITA Indoor Championship

<p>&nbsp;Spencer Furman clinched the Blue Devils' upset victory Friday.</p>

 Spencer Furman clinched the Blue Devils' upset victory Friday.

The Blue Devils advanced without much trouble Sunday, and they didn’t even have to play the weekend’s hosts to do it.

No. 24 Duke wrapped up its weekend in Fort Worth, Texas by sweeping San Diego 4-0 and punching its ticket to the ITA National Men’s Indoor Championship in Seattle in the three weeks. With the win, the Blue Devils will advance to the tournament for the sixth time in eight seasons. 

Sunday was a special day for Spencer Furman, who helped secure the doubles point before coming away with a huge singles victory to send the Blue Devils to Seattle. Furman, whose parents live in the Fort Worth area and came out to support him, clinched the match for Duke with his 7-6, 6-2 win against August Holmgren. 

“Great college tennis match,” Blue Devil head coach Ramsey Smith said. “I thought we competed extremely well, and it certainly was a lot closer than the 4-0 score. There were a lot of close matches, and we fought through some tough situations.” 

It was a surprise that Duke was even playing San Diego at all. The Toreros upset No. 10 TCU in a match that came down to the wire, and the Blue Devils advanced to the weekend’s championship with a close 4-2 win against Louisville Saturday that junior Ryan Dickerson clinched with a three-set win. 

“San Diego played a heck of a match yesterday,” Smith said. “Pretty surprising result, but they’re an awfully tough team and they were the better team yesterday against TCU. But we play who’s in front of us, and we were able to come away with the big win.”

For the third time in a row, Duke (3-0) came out strong by taking the doubles point. But the match began with a Blue Devil defeat, as August Holmgren and Joel Gamerov topped juniors Jason Lapidus and Ryan Dickerson on Court 2, 6-2. 

But Duke rallied back, beginning with junior Nick Stachowiak and freshman Sean Sculley defeating Gui Osorio and Nico Borter 6-4. Then, Furman and junior Catalin Mateas clinched the doubles point by taking down David Norfeldt and Pratt Keerasuntonpong, 6-3. The Blue Devil duo fell behind 2-1, but won the next two games and never looked back. 

After earning the doubles point, Duke entered the singles portion of the match needing only three victories. Sculley, Furman and Dickerson delivered. 

It began with Sculley, who improved to 3-0 in dual match play after handling Borter 6-3, 6-3. Sculley never trailed in the match, and though Borter fought hard in the second to bring it to 4-3, Sculley won the final two games to swiftly finish him off. 

“He’s off to a great start,” Smith said. “When I recruited him, I knew he was going to be the type of guy who would thrive in a dual-match setting. He just brings so much energy, competes so hard, and seems to love being out there, especially in the big moments. He has a lot of tennis ahead of him in his career, but how you start as a freshman is important and I’m really excited about how he has started.”

Next up was Dickerson, who defeated Alexandros Araouzos 7-5, 6-2 to bring Duke’s lead to 3-0. Araouzos fought back to tie it in the first set after falling behind 5-3, but Dickerson shut the door by winning the last two games. In the second set, the score was knotted at 2-2 until Dickerson won four straight games. With the win, Dickerson also improved to 3-0 in dual-match play. 

No. 81 ranked Furman sealed the match for the Blue Devils in a tight victory against Holmgren. Furman clawed back in the first set to force a tiebreaker—which he won 8-6—before easily taking the second set 6-2. 

“Spencer played great, and it was extra special for him. His parents live in the area and we had dinner with them on Thursday when we first arrived,” Smith said. “I told him after the Louisville match that tomorrow you have a chance to be a hero and win it for us. He saved some set points in the first set and just really fought a battle like he always does and clinched a huge match for us to send us to Seattle.” 

The Blue Devils managed to come away with the win despite competing without star player Nicolas Alvarez, who is nursing a foot injury.

“I was really impressed that, without Nico, the next guy stepped up,” Smith said. “It showed a lot that we were able to get through this weekend without our best player, and it should give the team a whole lot of confidence moving forward.” 

Beginning next weekend, Duke has four tough matches between now and the ITA Indoor Championship Feb. 16-18. The Blue Devils play their home opener against No. 16 Illinois Friday at 6 p.m. and wrap up the weekend by playing Northwestern at noon next Sunday.