For a while, it looked as if Duke was going to have to settle for splitting its Saturday doubleheader.
The team had made easy work of UNC Wilmington, but struggled against North Carolina A&T. But by the end of the day, most of their competitive matches turned into blowouts, and the Blue Devils finished a home-opener sweep Saturday at the Sheffield Tennis Center.
“We felt good. I thought today was a very productive day overall,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “We had ten different players playing singles, [which] kind of showed the depth of our team. A&T came out firing in singles early and I thought we did a good job finishing them off.”
Duke (3-0) trounced the Seahawks (0-1) and the Aggies (0-1) each by a score of 6-1, winning over 75-percent of their games in the process. An excited afternoon crowd filled the mezzanine overlooking the courts for the UNC Wilmington match as it watched the Blue Devils’ first home rallies of 2020. Four Duke players raced out to early leads, and all six won their first sets. Duke’s only lost point in the afternoon came from freshman Andrew Zhang who lost his singles match 2-1.
In his first career match in Durham, junior transfer Luca Keist won his sets 6-2, 6-2 behind a forehand so forceful that the sound of his return was unlike that of any other player’s.
“I was a great atmosphere for sure,” said Keist. “Just being on this team, I think every one of us is loud. Also, the crowd was great, so I just enjoyed it.”
Keist followed that up with two evening wins against the Aggies—one with senior Spencer Furman in doubles, and one in singles, a 6-2, 6-1 win against North Carolina A&T’s Nicolas Arduh.
“I just kept pressuring the opponent,” said Kiest. “The longer the match went, the more I just gained a little bit more on the edge, and just miss[ed] a little bit less than my opponent.”
Keist was one of only two Blue Devils to play two singles matches on Saturday, along with Garrett Johns. Keist’s transfer status meant that he couldn’t play for Charlotte this fall, so more matches allow him to catch up his match count. For most of the other guys, it was just a matter of getting some rest and flexing their depth.
“[Our talent] is pretty close, especially the lower half of the lineup and the first couple guys that are out of the lineup,” said Smith. “It's good, because guys are pushing each other in practice and trying for themselves every time that they get an opportunity…. These guys are tennis players, they’re used to playing tennis and they’re in good shape. I think part of the reason with the doubleheaders is to push and challenge guys. Typically, our doubleheaders are the last match of the weekend; we play again on Monday, so that’s something a little bit different and we’re going to test the guys a little bit differently this year.”
Duke will return to the Sheffield Tennis Center Monday for an afternoon match against Elon.
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