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Duke men's tennis bounces back with 2 home wins with Alvarez back in the lineup

<p>Nicolas Alvarez dropped his third-consecutive match Friday against Florida State.</p>

Nicolas Alvarez dropped his third-consecutive match Friday against Florida State.

After dropping back-to-back matches without their top player last weekend, the Blue Devils bounced back into form following redshirt junior Nicolas Alvarez’s return.  

No. 20 Duke defeated both Clemson and Georgia Tech at home this weekend. Coming off a 5-2 victory against Clemson Friday at Ambler Tennis Stadium, the Blue Devils carried their success over to a 4-1 takedown of Georgia Tech Sunday afternoon at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center after being forced to relocate mid-match due to thunderstorms. 

Alvarez rejoined his team Friday after spending last weekend in Metepec, Mexico competing for his native country of Peru in the Davis Cup. Alvarez evened the match against Mexico 1-1 with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 victory Saturday against Luis Patino.

“It’s always very special to represent the country where I grew up, where I have so many friends and family,” Alvarez said. “I feel like when I play for Peru, I am playing for all of them, for the entire country and for myself too... It was a very nice atmosphere in Mexico. I told the guys it’s comparable to playing a 3-3 clincher with 1,500 people watching your court.” 

Duke (15-10, 6-4 in the ACC) got out to a hot start against the Tigers (9-9, 3-7) Friday. The Blue Devils took the match’s first point in a hurry with a pair of dominant 6-2 victories. Alvarez and junior Catalin Mateas defeated the nation’s 31st-best doubles team in Alex Favrot and Simon Baudry. Juniors Ryan Dickerson and Jason Lapidus also tookdown Carlos Kelaidis and Marshall Dagostine by the same margin.

After grabbing an early advantage, Duke carried its success onto the singles courts. No. 16 Alvarez defeated No. 64 Favrot 6-4, 6-2 on Court 1—the first of four singles victories for the Blue Devils. Sophomore Nick Stachowiak needed a tiebreaker to take down Sam Edwards 6-4, 7-6 (3) on Court 3. Fellow sophomore Robert Levine and junior Ryan Dickerson earned the fourth and fifth points for Duke. Levine defeated Kalaidis 6-4, 6-4 on Court 5, while Dickerson dominated Reed Rabideau 6-0, 6-2 on Court 6. 

However, not everyone found themselves in the win column. Mateas and sophomore Spencer Furman fell to their respective opponents Baudry and Yizhou Liu 6-3, 6-2 and 6-3, 6-4—just minor blemishes on a strong start to the weekend for the Blue Devils.

“We had our worst weekend of the year last weekend, two rough losses, so this was an important weekend for us to pick up two wins,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “We’ve shown a little bit more consistency in doubles. We’ve won our last three doubles points with three different combinations. We’ve kind of been plugging guys in and out due to some injuries and illnesses, but the overall level of doubles has been good and that definitely sets the tone.” 

In Sunday’s matchup against Georgia Tech (5-15, 1-9), Duke was back in the attack from the onset. The Blue Devils quickly earned the doubles point with a 6-1 win by Dickerson and Lapidus versus Phillip Gresk and Andrew Li, followed by a 6-3 victory courtesy of No. 81 Stachowiak and freshman Sean Sculley against Elijah Melendez and Chris Yun.

On the singles courts, the Blue Devils stretched their lead to 2-0 after a dominant 6-1, 6-3 victory by Levine against Melendez on Court 4. Moments later, Alvarez extended Duke’s lead to three with a controlling 6-3, 6-2 win against No. 54 Carlos Divar on Court 1. The former All-American got off to a slow start, dropping three of the first five games in the match before taking six of the last eight games to earn the victory. 

“I started off a little slow,” Alvarez said. “My legs were feeling a little heavy—sometimes it’s nerves or tension—but once I got a break, I started feeling better, started moving better. Overall, he was not an easy opponent, but I feel like I was in control for most of the match.”

About an hour and a half into competition, both teams were forced to relocate indoors due to thunderstorms. Once inside, the Blue Devils poured it on. Duke took four of the six sets played indoors, including the 7-5, 6-3 clincher by Stachowiak against Gresk on Court 3. Stachowiak gave the Blue Devils the deciding fourth victory, with the lone loss coming on Court 6, where Dickerson fell to Yun 6-2, 6-3.

“It was actually nice we got to play outside as much as we did,” Smith said. “We knew the wind was going to pick up before the rain came, so we were just mentally prepared to go indoors and once we did, I just told the guys that it’s a huge advantage for us... They’re a little bit different than our outdoor courts and we get to play here all the time. I thought our initial burst of energy indoors got us in that winning position and we were able to finish it off.” 

With the win Sunday, Duke has now won four consecutive matches with Alvarez on the court. The Blue Devils will look to close out their regular season on a strong note when they travel to Florida next weekend to take on Miami and Florida State.