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Chemistry shines as Duke men's tennis sweeps weekend slate

Nick Stachowiak's three-set win against Virginia Tech Friday led to one of the Blue Devils' most dramatic celebrations of the season.
Nick Stachowiak's three-set win against Virginia Tech Friday led to one of the Blue Devils' most dramatic celebrations of the season.

On an especially joyous weekend, filled with friendly banter and big celebrations, it was unlikely hero Samir Agadi who brought out the most smiles.

The senior recorded the final point of No. 29 Duke’s most severe beatdown of the season, capping a 3-0 weekend in Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center that started a lot more competitively than it ended. But after a tight 4-2 win against Virginia Tech Friday, a combined 11-0 drubbing of Coastal Carolina Saturday afternoon and Holy Cross later that day marked an emphatic closing to the final doubleheader of the Blue Devils’ season.

“I am thankful,” Agadi said. “[The fans] have been really supportive ever since I joined the tennis program, and they are really good fans, and I think they love Duke tennis now, which is great. So I love having them out here, and especially when I play, it’s a super fun environment.”

Saturday began with a clean 4-0 win against the Chanticleers (4-2). But that was just the beginning.

Agadi’s singles win against the Crusaders (5-6), the second of his career, later that day closed Duke’s fastest match of the season. From the first doubles serve to Agadi’s last point, the Holy Cross affair lasted just over an hour. Singles matches took barely more than a half-hour, a blistering pace stemming from just 10 lost games across all singles matches. Edu Güell, Omni Kumar, Andrew Zhang and Sean Sculley each lost no more than one singles game.

That all made for a very spectator-friendly event, as all the fans quickly made their way to Agadi’s match. Much like in his first career win, which came just Feb. 9 against N.C. Central, the other Blue Devils stood courtside as each of his winners marched him closer to inevitable victory, filling Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center with cheers. This time, however, a student section full of Agadi’s friends bolstered the friendly clamor.

“Anytime Samir [Agadi]’s out there, it's a great crowd,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “He’s a big man on campus. Everyone loves Samir. He’s earned these opportunities. He’s worked extremely hard, and he’s been a great member of the program. He’s not someone that gets to play that often in matches, so when he does, it's special…. We’ve been lucky to have him on the team.”

Agadi didn’t just brighten up the weekend in singles. Duke (12-1, 1-0 ACC) routed Holy Cross in doubles so quickly that Agadi and his double partner, freshman Omni Kumar, had to race Sculley and Zhang to record the winning doubles point, since the other pair wouldn’t get to finish and record a win. 

Sculley had spent much of their doubles match rushing Zhang to finish the match and get the win. But it was in vain: Kumar and Agadi finished just in time to secure their victory.

“[Kumar] was rushing me a little bit," Agadi said. "[Volunteer assistant coach Christopher Kougoucheff] wasn’t even letting me drink water."

All of this Saturday excitement might make you feel bad for Friday’s fans, but fret not, for they got to witness a nail-biter win against the Hokies (5-4, 0-1 in the ACC) to open conference play. In fact, they got to enjoy one of the Blue Devils’ fiercest celebrations of the season.

Virginia Tech came into Friday with modest showings against ranked or once-ranked teams, such as LSU and Tulane. Unintimidated, Duke gave the Hokies the work in doubles, but fell behind quickly in singles. Freshmen Garrett Johns and Zhang, who was seeing his first truly competitive action in a while, gave confidence in two singles points for the home team. The third point looked worrisome, though, as several teammates fell behind big.

However, senior Nick Stachowiak came back from being down a break in the second set and seized all the momentum in the building and refused to surrender it. His opponent, Henrik Korsgaard, was a top-100 player, but Stachowiak clearly had much more stamina than him, nabbing a break in the second set and never slowing until an exhausted Korsgaard was forced to send a match-ending groundstroke into the net.

At this point, Stachowiak fell to the ground, threw his fists straight up into the air and got mobbed by all of his teammates, getting buried under a scrum.

With junior Luka Keist out for the weekend and freshman Samuel Rubell out for the near future with a leg injury, Duke edged these wins out below its full strength. Injuries here and there are par for the course with tennis, and the Blue Devils have shown themselves to be ready to overcome them. That may not be enough to upset the likes of No. 17 Wake Forest, who they play on Wednesday in Winston-Salem, N.C., but it’s certainly not out of the question.

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