No. 15 Duke men's tennis crushes Virginia Tech, falls to No. 3 Virginia in split ACC weekend

The demons of last year came to plague Duke once more against Virginia.
The demons of last year came to plague Duke once more against Virginia.

Last year, Duke had a magical run, one of the best seasons in recent history. But the team that prevented a fairytale ending was Virginia, defeating the Blue Devils in both the ACC Championship and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers once again proved to be an Achilles’ heel, besting the home squad 6-1 in a hard-fought match Sunday afternoon. 

“I thought the match was a lot closer than the score today,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “I think the overall product was much better than last weekend and felt like we took some steps forward even though we lost the match today.”

No. 15 Duke (11-7, 3-2 in the ACC) first faced Virginia Tech Friday and defeated the Hokies 5-2. The Blue Devils got off to a great start in doubles and took the point behind solid play on all three courts. In singles, Duke’s top two players — redshirt senior Garrett Johns and sophomore Pedro Rodenas — registered come-from-behind victories, while junior Connor Krug and graduate student Andrew Zhang also notched singles wins as the Blue Devils cruised to victory. 

“The top of the line stepped up, I really thought that [Zhang] and [Krug] played at a high level from start to finish,” Smith said. 

The match against Virginia was more of a struggle. In the doubles rounds, Duke played determined tennis. All three courts were tight and it was anybody’s point in the latter half of the sets. 

On court 1, Johns and Rodenas won a remarkable three deuce points en route to a 5-3 lead. Rodenas served to win the set 6-4 and give his team a 1-0 lead. The Blue Devils led 5-4 on court 2 and were tied 5-5 on court 3. 

Michael Heller and Andrew Zhang had two match points on court 2, but Virginia’s Chris Rodesch and Jeffrey von der Schulenberg fought back and led 6-5. Meanwhile on court 3, Duke’s tandem of Teddy Truwit and Faris Khan lost 7-5. That means it all came down to court 2. 

Heller and Zhang won a key break point and forced a tiebreak. However, Rodesch played some great tennis in the tiebreak, giving the Cavaliers the set and the doubles point. 

“I thought all six guys did a great job,” Smith said. “We were obviously in all three of those matches but credit Virginia for stepping up in some of those big moments. But overall, I was very pleased with our doubles today.”

Virginia has one of the better singles lineups in the country and flexed its firepower in that round. 

The first sets were fairly close, as Duke emerged with Johns and Khan winning on courts 1 and 6, respectively. Alexander Visser, a freshman who has been playing remarkably well as of late, fought to a tiebreak on court 5 but lost to Alexander Kiefer 7-6(5). 

However, the Cavaliers dominated the second sets and really separated themselves. Rodenas lost to Rodesch on two in straight sets, and junior Connor Krug fell to von der Schulenberg 6-4, 6-3. Johns and Khan saw their leads evaporate as they both were defeated in the second set. 

Virginia took the match lead 3-0, but the Blue Devils would not fall away that easily. Zhang bounced back and had two points to win the second set, but an amazing passing shot from Dylan Dietrich forced a second-set tiebreak. Nevertheless, Zhang faltered in the tiebreak, as the Cavaliers clinched the match. 

Johns won the third set 6-2 to get Duke on the board to end the match. Meanwhile, Visser came back to force a third set but could not quite close out Kiefer, falling 7-6, 2-6, 6-4. 

“[Johns] has just been a rock in general, so solid and competes so well,” Smith said. “Very, very tough matchup today with [Montes] who has beaten him before. Really happy for him to pull that through and continue the momentum that he's built.”

The Blue Devils next take a trip to Florida for dates with Miami and Florida State Friday and Sunday, respectively. 

“We just have to keep putting in good weeks, keep staying positive, keep playing free and playing aggressive,” Smith said. “That's when we play our best tennis.”

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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