No. 14 Duke men's tennis rides strong doubles performances to weekend wins against Louisville, Notre Dame

Duke dominated doubles play against Notre Dame Sunday, taking the first two matches.
Duke dominated doubles play against Notre Dame Sunday, taking the first two matches.

After the loss against No. 3 Virginia back on March 10, No. 14 Duke has more than bounced back by sweeping the weekend, beating Louisville Friday and Notre Dame Saturday. The Blue Devils extended their winning streak to four games ahead of arguably their most important game of the season next weekend against a North Carolina team that only seems to be getting better with time. 

“Pleased with the team win,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “I loved the way in which we finished. I thought we really dug in there; I thought our physicality came through. I felt like we were the fitter guys at the end there.”

Duke (15-7, 7-2 in the ACC) beat the Fighting Irish 5-2, and its dominance began with its doubles play: The Blue Devils took the lead from the start and did not look back. On court 1, redshirt senior Garrett Johns and sophomore Pedro Rodenas broke point to take a 2-0 lead early in the set. Graduate students Andrew Zhang and Michael Heller reciprocated by breaking point themselves followed by a breakpoint in court 3 by senior Faris Khan and sophomore Teddy Truwit. Duke was leading 2-0 on all courts in the set, but Notre Dame (10-12, 1-7) responded by breaking back again and tieing. Eventually, after a series of breaks in all three courts, it was the Blue Devils who ended up taking the point, still leading on unfinished court 3. 

Although Duke did have a good start to the doubles matches, it failed to continue this tendency starting singles. On court 1, Johns was struggling against his opponent, as Notre Dame sophomore Sebastian Dominko was hitting the Atlanta native with a deadly first serve as the first set finished with Dominko leading 6-3. On court 2, Rodenas’ attempt to use the drop shot was not proving effective causing the Spaniard to drop the first set 6-2, while freshman Alexander Visser dropped the first set as well, 6-3, on court 5. Only junior Connor Krug, with a solid 6-2 win, and Zhang with a tiebreaker 7-6 (7-5), were able to take the first set for Duke. 

“We didn’t have that urgency, we didn’t have that killer instinct and we opened the door and they were close to winning five first sets…” Smith said of the singles start. “We didn’t put our foot in the gas after the doubles point, but really proud about how we finished.”

There couldn’t have been a better way for Rodenas and Johns to start the second set of their respective matches. Rodenas started using the drop-shot more effectively while at the same time fatiguing his Notre Dame counterpart. Johns was starting to return some of the fast-paced serves. 

“We work a lot on the mental side of things and handling adversity, handling discouragement… I thought [Johns and Rodenas] did a really good job at kind of clearing their mind, resetting,” said Smith. 

As Johns and Rodenas each took their second set 6-1, the Fighting Irish earned their first win and got on the board as freshman Kyran Magimay beat Visser 6-3, 6-2. Meanwhile, Krug’s solid play continued as he finished off junior Jameson Corsillo 6-2, 7-5, once again giving the Blue Devils the 2-1 general lead. 

“Connor’s lost some tough matches, he lost a really tough one where he had match points on Friday, and just really proud of how he responded to that,” said Smith. “Came out yesterday, had a great practice, worked on a couple of things and came out with a fresh mindset, competed well, and I am really proud of him for getting over the line.” said Smith. 

Notre Dame responded right back with a win on court 6 as junior Yu Zhang beat junior Jake Krug 6-2, 6-3. However Rodenas’ drop shot was simply proving too much to handle for Nil Giraldez as the Madrid, Spain, native won the third set comfortably 6-1 to take the game and push Duke back in the lead. It was now up to either Johns or Zhang to give the Blue Devils the final point to win the match. 

“I try to think like each set is kind of a different match because even if you win the first set 6-0 or lose it 6-0, you just gotta go and compete for the next set cause it’s starting 0-0, so I just went in with that mindset and had a good start,” Johns said. 

After managing to take the second set 6-1, Johns was up 5-4 in the third set with the serve in hand. After a series of missed forehands by Dominko, Duke’s veteran was suddenly up with a chance to win the match and clinch the victory for the Blue Devils. Fortunately for Duke, Johns’ experience paid off as he won the match 6-4, clinching the victory for the Blue Devils just ahead of Zhang’s 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 victory in court 3. The fact that Johns clinched the match broke Zhang’s streak as the Bloomfield Hills, Mich., native had gone three games in a row winning the clinching set. 

Despite the victory, Smith still believes there is room for improvement as the Blue Devils try to end the regular season strong. 

“We always talk about playing our best tennis at the end of the season and it’s nice, we are getting on a bit of a roll here, we’re building some confidence and we’ve got some really big, fun matches coming up,” Smith said.

Nonetheless, in order for the Blue Devils to continue their win streak and carry this momentum they first have to beat their rival Tar Heels at home Saturday, a game which promises to be competitive: 

“It's gonna be a dog fight,” Smith said. 


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