Defy odds, break records.
After a 6-1 Friday triumph at home against Miami courtesy of a third-consecutive match-clinching singles win by Connor Krug on court four, No. 13 Duke flaunted its on-court brilliance with a 4-3 win against No. 19 Florida State Sunday afternoon at Ambler Tennis Stadium. In front of a crowd of Blue Devil tennis alumni, it was only fitting that the victory broke the program record for conference wins and brought Duke’s win streak to seven matches.
While there were nine different matches that spanned nearly a total of five hours between the Blue Devils and the Seminoles, there was one common underlying theme: resilience.
Duke’s dynamic one-two punch of senior Garrett Johns and freshman Pedro Rodenas on court one set the tone for the Blue Devils, winning their match 6-3. Shortly thereafter, however, unforced errors near the net and on returns saw the combo of Andrew Zhang and Michael Keller fall short 6-4.
With the doubles point on the line, all eyes turned to court three. Duke’s Connor Krug and Teddy Truwit clawed themselves out of a 1-4 hole and forced a tiebreaker, and a powerful serve by Krug handed Duke its first point of the day with a 7-6 win.
“In these matches, it just comes down to a couple points here and there and you need to have your head when you're in those situations,” head coach Ramsey Smith said.
After doubles, Duke (18-5, 11-1 in the ACC) returned back under the bleachers, away from the crowd and the glimmering sunlight, and prepared to take on the rest of the matchup.
Good preparation was particularly crucial for Johns. The Atlanta native was matched up against Florida State’s Antoine Cornut-Chauvinc, the fourth-best collegiate singles player in the nation.
“With Garrett [Johns], when he prepares the right way, which is almost all the time, you just know he has a chance against anybody,” Ramsey said.
Johns, the 14th-ranked player in the nation, led a tour de force against Cornut-Chauvinc to start the match. Set tied at 1-1, he kept himself busy on the baseline, forehanding his way to a break early in the set. Propelled by the break, he expanded his cushion against the France native, eventually upsetting him in straight sets 6-2, 6-4.
“Well, kind of the same as usual, just getting ready with the team,” Johns said of his preparation. “Warm-ups, having a really good week of practice and just getting ready for the last two matches in the regular season.”
Combined with a quick win earlier from Rodenas, the Blue Devils were up 3-0, just a point shy of clinching their 18th win of the season. But when the win seemed ever so probable, the Seminoles (17-7, 8-4) started to fire back.
The dominoes started falling for Florida State later in the day. Joshua Dous-Karpenschif broke late in the second set, beating Krug for his team’s first point of the day. Duke’s Andrew Dale stayed tenacious and continued to fight back, but his efforts were in vain as he fell to Andreja Petrovic 6-4, 6-2.
On the adjacent court, Zhang was kept busy with a marathon of well-placed shots and hard-hit serves. He forced Florida State’s Youcef Rihane to a tiebreaker, in which a victor didn’t emerge for nearly 20 minutes.
Rihane — all thanks to his mighty forehand and lightning-fast serves — won the first four points. As the set started to wane away from Zhang, he fought back even harder. Every time Rihane was a point shy of winning the set, Zhang, sliding back and forth around the court, found a way to stay alive. The Bloomfield Hills, Mich., native eventually came back to win the tiebreaker 13-11, sending the home crowd roaring to its feet.
Zhang’s stroke did not look quite the same after the hour-long rain delay, however, and he lost the last two sets 6-2, 6-3.
“Even though [Zhang] lost his match, what he did in that first set was massive for the momentum,” Smith said. “It's exciting for me to see the guys pushing through in these big matches and I'm just really proud of them.”
A handful of clutch shots and exhilarating chants later, it was Faris Khan on court six that clinched a Duke win, just moments before Rihane beat Zhang.
With a win Sunday, the Blue Devils have been awarded the No. 2 seed for the ACC Championship starting Friday in Cary, N.C.
“We haven't been looking at the numbers next to our name or next to our opponents' names,” Smith said. “We just prepare the best we can for every single match.”
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