Duke men's tennis 2024 season preview

Freshman Alexander Visser is the only newcomer on this year's men's tennis squad.
Freshman Alexander Visser is the only newcomer on this year's men's tennis squad.

Overview

After a historic 22-7 season featuring a trip to both the ACC championship and the Sweet 16 — losing to eventual national champion Virginia in both — Duke is primed for another deep postseason run. The eighth-ranked team by ITA has the majority of its squad returning, including the entire starting singles lineup. The group is led by redshirt senior Garrett Johns, the 2023 singles All-American who is returning after playing professionally in the fall. Sophomore Pedro Rodenas is coming off an impeccable freshman season, winning 33 times during the course of the year and recording an 11-1 ACC record. Rodenas and Johns also represent the No. 1 doubles tandem for the Blue Devils. 

Graduate seniors Andrew Zhang and Michael Heller are also coming back playing doubles after Heller dealt with some injury last season. Zhang also holds strong at the No. 3 singles position, winning his first matches of the 2024 season as Duke defeated VCU, Princeton and N.C. Central. The Blue Devils also have returning junior twins Connor and Jake Krug, who improved vastly over the course of the 2023 season and are threats in both singles and doubles. 

“Yeah, we have a lot of options,” said head coach Ramsey Smith following the Blue Devils’ undefeated opening weekend. “Every match, there's four guys that don't play singles that could play singles.”

It is shaping up to be a great year for Duke, but the ACC is also loaded, with six members ranked in the ITA top 25. The Blue Devils’ success will rest on their health and play against the top teams, but on paper, this team is as good as any in the country. -Ranjan Jindal

New player to watch: Alexander Visser

Although there is only one newcomer on the Duke men’s tennis roster, his addition is an extremely noteworthy and exciting one. Alexander Visser joins the Blue Devils as the No. 5 prospect in TennisRecruiting.net’s national rankings. During his high school career, the Westport, Conn., native amassed a long list of accolades, which included achieving a career-high UTR rating of 12.92 and winning the gold ball at the 2021 USTA Boys’ 18s National Indoor Championship. 

Despite standing at only 5-foot-8, a relatively short height for a Division I collegiate tennis player, Visser’s talent, athleticism and skill on the court negates most disadvantages brought about by his shorter stature. The Pierrepont School product has shined throughout the team’s early-season matches, and especially Duke’s opening encounters last weekend against VCU, Princeton and N.C. Central. The talented freshman won his doubles matches against the Eagles, and also earned his first collegiate singles win in an impressive showing against the Tigers’ Aleksander Mitrio.

More than 30 years after his father played for the same team, Visser will hope to establish himself as one of the best young tennis players in the ACC, and maybe even the country. -Rodrigo Amaré

Returning player to watch: Pedro Rodenas

In 2024, Duke brings back nearly its entire roster, including top singles players Garrett Johns and Pedro Rodenas. Although Johns is slated to return as the top guy this season, keep an eye out for Rodenas, who did not lose in the second singles spot last season. Currently, Rodenas sits as the No. 21 singles player in the country, an impressive mark considering his start at No. 84 last season. Although he was dominant all year, he picked up steam late in the season, losing just one set in his last nine matches to No. 26 Inaki Montes of Virginia. 

This season, Rodenas’ outlook looks similar to the last: He’ll start the season in the second singles spot, as well as playing with Johns as the first doubles pairing. In matches against VCU and Princeton this year, Johns and Rodenas took down both of their opponents with relative ease, dropping just seven games as a pair; however, there’s work for Rodenas to improve his singles game with just one victory against N.C. Central and losses against Princeton and VCU. -Garrett Spooner

Most anticipated matchup: March 10 vs. Virginia

Although they will likely not meet three times this season, as was the case in the last, Duke’s most anticipated matchup(s) will be against Virginia. The Cavaliers entered the year ranked first in the country, and now sit at the three spot after falling to South Carolina. Simply put, Virginia was dominant last season: not only did it win the national championship, but it dropped just three points in six total NCAA tournament matches. Coming into this year, the Blue Devils’ focus will be on the Cavaliers, especially after losing all three matches, including two in postseason play, to their conference foe. -Spooner

Best-case scenario

Make no mistake about it: Duke’s roster boasts both the talent and experience to seriously compete against any opponent. With all six of last year’s singles lineup returning, including singles All-Americans Garrett Johns and Pedro Rodenas, and the addition of talented freshman Visser, the Blue Devils should improve on their 22-7 record, ACC championship appearance and Sweet 16 exit last season. If Duke avoids major injuries and its stars continue to perform, there’s no reason why the Blue Devils shouldn’t make a deep run in the NCAA tournament in May. -Amaré

Worst-case scenario

The ACC is deep, and while Duke has one of the best rosters in the country, the schedule is tough, especially with a finishing stretch against North Carolina, Wake Forest and N.C. State. These matches could go either way, and if the Blue Devils end up on the wrong side, they could be positioned low in the ACC and NCAA tournaments. This team should qualify for the NCAA tournament, but an early exit is not out of the question. -Jindal

Predictions

Jindal: 17-5 (9-3 in the ACC), loss in NCAA Elite Eight

Spooner: 18-4 (10-2 ACC), loss in NCAA Super Regional

Amaré: 18-4 (9-3 ACC), loss in NCAA Elite Eight


Ranjan Jindal profile
Ranjan Jindal | Assistant Blue Zone editor

Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

Discussion

Share and discuss “Duke men's tennis 2024 season preview” on social media.