No. 13 Duke men's tennis splits weekend, handily beats Boston College after narrowly falling to Harvard

Freshman Alexander Visser during Duke's January match against N.C. Central.
Freshman Alexander Visser during Duke's January match against N.C. Central.

An extremely difficult nonconference slate concluded for No. 13 Duke with a trip to Cambridge, Mass., to compete against two local schools. No. 8 Harvard first defeated Duke 4-3 in a roller-coaster match Friday that showcased some elite tennis from both sides, and the Blue Devils bounced back with a dominant 6-1 win against Boston College to begin league play on the right foot Saturday. 

“The Harvard match was a battle,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “ I felt like we did some things really well, but we didn't quite click across the board. But I thought we did a good job [against Boston College] bouncing back.”

After winning the doubles point, the Crimson had all the momentum at the start of the singles matches, earning five out of six first sets. The lone set for the visitors came on court 1, as redshirt senior Garrett Johns defeated No. 11 Cooper Williams 6-2. 

However, the second sets were a different story. Harvard was able to get straight-set wins on courts 3 and 4, but Duke (9-5, 1-0 in the ACC) made life difficult the rest of the way. Johns finished off Williams 6-2, 6-4, and freshman Alexander Visser came back to a three-set victory against Valdemar Pape 0-6, 6-3, 6-2. This made the match score 3-2 with two crucial singles matches remaining. 

“In singles we got off to a really rough starts,” Smith said. “I was really proud of the way we battled back, forced a lot of third sets and had some bright moments with with [Johns] picking up the big win, [Rodenas] coming back to win in three sets and then a really big win for for [Visser] after losing the first set 6-0.”

On court 5, junior Jake Krug won the second set 6-1 but fell as Melchior Delloye blanked him in the third set 6-0. The Crimson clinched the match with this victory, improving to 8-4 (now 9-4) on the year. Duke star sophomore Pedro Rodenas won his third set against Henry Von der Schulenberg, for a 4-3 final score. 

Against Boston College, it appeared as though Duke would win the doubles point. But behind a raucous home crowd, the Eagles came back. On court 1, Andrew Zhang and Michael Heller jumped out to a 5-4 lead with a break advantage, but fell 7-5 as Juan Jose Bianchi and Jake Vassel played some clutch doubles, breaking the Blue Devils’ top tandem. 

On court 2, Johns and Visser played together as the latter replaced Rodenas in the lineup. The Spainiard was forced to sit out one spring match after playing an extra professional tournament in the fall. The new tandem went to a tiebreak against Anesh Jayasundera and Caleb Saltz, who worked their way back into the set and dominated the tiebreaker 7-2 as Boston College took the doubles point. 

“Doubles at this level, it just comes down to a point here and there,” Smith said. “We just lost some of the bigger points but have full confidence in those guys and they'll get back on track.”

However, it was all Blue Devils in the singles ranks, and senior Andrew Dale finished first on court 6, winning against Connor McDonald 6-1, 6-2. Connor and Jake Krug followed with victories on courts 3 and 5, respectively.

Visser earned his way up to court 4 and the freshman showed remarkable poise, defeating Mai Gao 6-2, 6-4. His solid serve combined with consistent groundstrokes makes him a tough out, and will be a key singles piece for Duke moving forward. 

“Visser has been fantastic,” Smith said. “He's gotten his opportunities, he stepped in, he's a great ball striker and hits a very good ball.”

After an up-and-down start to the season, Johns has really found his footing, improving to 6-2 on singles with a 6-2, 6-4 win against Bianchi, allowing the Blue Devils to take a 6-1 win back to Durham. 

“He's been phenomenal,” Smith said. “He's our leader, he's our best player, and it just gives the rest of the team a lot of confidence knowing that we can win at that No. 1 spot.”

Duke returns home for two ACC matches against Clemson and Georgia Tech Friday and Sunday, respectively. 

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.


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