The strength of a collegiate team is reflected in veteran performance and young talent. The Blue Devils showcased both this week.
Duke completed a successful run at the ITA All American Championships in Tulsa, Okla. Both freshman Pedro Rodenas and senior Garrett Johns qualified for the main draw, a difficult feat at one of the premier collegiate tournaments in the country.
Johns led the Blue Devils, earning a trip to the quarterfinals of the main draw. This represents the furthest that a Duke player has reached at the event since 2014, when Nicolas Alvarez made his way to the quarterfinals.
“I think Garrett was definitely the highlight of our tournament,” said head coach Ramsey Smith. “He just continues to impress, he continues to lead the team.”
Johns persevered throughout the tournament, winning in multiple grueling three-set matches. In his first-round match against Stanford’s Nishesh Basavareddy, Johns won the first set 6-4 but lost a tight second set 7-6 (4). Nevertheless, Johns remained steady, prevailing in the deciding set 6-3.
The Atlanta native demonstrated his resilience in the following rounds, triumphing over two more players before reaching the quarterfinals. In this round, Johns was defeated in three sets by Eliot Spizzirri of Texas (3-6, 6-4, 4-6).
“He beat three extremely good players in very tough, physical matches and lost a heartbreaker in the quarterfinals,” said Smith. “I think he has established himself as a top-10 player in the country.”
Rodenas had a remarkable showing in his first-ever collegiate tournament. Rodenas won three matches in the qualifying rounds to advance to the main draw, including a 6-1, 6-1 rout of Baylor's Zsomber Velcz, the seventh-ranked freshman.
“Overall, I was really pleased and happy for him to watch him compete his way to the main draw and just get the experience at the highest level of college tennis right from the beginning,” said Smith.
Johns and Rodenas teamed up in the doubles draw as well. The tandem won two qualifying matches before falling in the final qualifying round to Fabien Salle and Natan Rodrigues of Louisville in the third set tiebreak 10-2.
Other Blue Devils who registered wins in the tournament were Andrew Zhang, Faris Khan and Jake Krug.
The pre-qualifiers did not go as the team would have liked, as four Blue Devils lost in the first pre-qualifying round. Nevertheless, Smith was pleased with the team’s overall performance.
“Pre-qualifiers weren't as good as we hoped. But I think in the qualifiers and main draw I was very pleased,” said Smith.
Next up for Smith’s bunch is the ITA Carolina Regionals in Cary, N.C., from Oct. 21-25. Duke will host the tournament at Cary Tennis Park in what will be the debut for many Duke players.
“We have a couple guys that we haven't seen this fall: Connor Krug, Teddy Trewit and Michael Heller. So I’m looking forward to hopefully getting all three of those guys going at Regionals,” said Smith.
Duke will compete against some of the best players in North Carolina and South Carolina, and Smith is looking forward to competing in singles and doubles.
“We're really looking to make a collective statement as a program,” said Smith.
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Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.