Four Blue Devils are ranked in the top 125 in singles and two doubles pairs are ranked among the top 40 in the nation heading into the matchup against the Wolverines. Two-time All-ACC selection and ITA All-America Henrique Cunha is ranked No. 7 in the ITA's latest poll, followed by the 2011 ITA Carolina Region Rookie of the Year Chris Mengel at No. 17. Fellow sophomore Fred Saba joins Cunha and Mengel in the rankings at No. 110, while rookie Raphael Hemmeler is listed at No. 120 after an impressive fall season.
Cunha and Mengel earned a No. 26 ranking to start the spring, while the duo of Saba and Hemmeler was tabbed No. 40.
Duke is coming off of a successful fall slate which saw Cunha reach the semifinals of the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in Flushing, N.Y., on his way to compiling a 14-4 singles ledger. Mengel also went 14-4 in singles tournament action, winning titles at the Duke Fab Four Invite and the ITA Carolina Regional. In addition, Mengel and Cunha teamed up for a team-best 7-4 mark in doubles while capturing the doubles crown at the ITA Carolina Regional and advancing to the quarterfinals at the USTA/ITA Indoors.
At last weekend's Duke Invitational, held at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center, several players wrapped up tournament play with strong showings in both singles and doubles play. Senior Torsten Wietoska won the singles event with victories at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in the lineup, while Cunha and Saba won the doubles crown in their debut as a tandem. Cunha also finished tied for second in the singles standings with a pair of wins from the No. 1 position.
Under the direction of head coach Ramsey Smith, who is in his fourth season at the helm of the program, the Blue Devils return seven letterwinners for the 2012 campaign. Seniors David Holland, Luke Marchese and Wietoska contribute a wealth of experience to the lineup, as does the junior Cunha. Cale Hammond, Mengel and Saba comprise a talented sophomore class, while newcomers Hemmeler and Jason Tahir are expected to make an immediate impact.
Last season, the squad compiled an overall record of 22-10 while reaching the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Cunha concluded the year with a ledger of 37-10 in singles and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Individual Championships in Stanford, Calif. In addition, he and 2011 graduate Reid Carleton also reached the quarterfinals of the doubles tournament, finishing out the season with a 38-7 overall record. The two hold the Duke career record for wins by one duo with 79 wins in the last two seasons.
Duke will face Michigan for the 10th time in program history with the Blue Devils leading the series, 7-2. In last year's meeting during the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, Duke recorded a 7-0 sweep over the Wolverines in Durham. Michigan closed out its 2010-11 campaign with a 13-11 record and qualified for the NCAA Championships for the sixth consecutive season. The Wolverines opened their dual match season on Jan. 15 with a 7-0 win over Western Michigan.
Live scoring and live video of Saturday's match will be available at http://www.mgoblue.com/livestats/m-tennis/index-m.html.