ATHENS, Ga. - The eighth-seeded Duke men's tennis team advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2001 with a 4-0 Round of 16 victory over No. 25 Baylor Friday afternoon at the McWhorter Courts at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The Blue Devils improved to 25-5 on the year for the program's highest number of wins in a season since the 1999-2000 campaign.
"We were just really prepared," said head coach Ramsey Smith. "Baylor is a tough out and they were playing their best tennis of the year going into this tournament, so we were ready for a battle. I'm just really proud of our guys."
Duke (25-5) got off to a quick start in doubles, posting wins on courts two and three to claim the point for the 22nd time this season. In the No. 2 contest, senior David Holland and sophomore Fred Saba went up a break at 2-all against 45th-ranked Kike Grangeiro and Roberto Maytin of Baylor (19-12). The Blue Devil duo also broke the Bears at 6-4 and held serve to lead Duke off the courts with an 8-4 victory. Holland and Saba earned their fourth consecutive win in postseason doubles play while moving to 8-3 on the season.
Senior Torsten Wietoska and freshman Raphael Hemmeler also grabbed an early break in their No. 3 match against the Bears' Julian Bley and Marko Krickovic, jumping out to a 3-1 lead on their way to an 8-2 win. Wietoska and Hemmeler improved to 15-5 overall and 13-3 this spring at the No. 3 position.
"David Holland has been our leader in terms of energy with doubles," Smith said. "He just gets the guys going, and it was a phenomenal start in doubles. With the format in the tournament here, the doubles point is so key and against our singles, it makes it really tough to have to win four matches."
While singles play started out tight across the board, Duke went on to take first sets on five of the six courts. Freshman Jason Tahir extended the Blue Devils' advantage in the match to 2-0, cruising to a 7-5, 6-0 victory over Bley in the No. 6 spot. Tahir recorded the second NCAA Championship win of his collegiate career and pushed his overall record to 26-8.
In a battle of top-20 players on court one, fifth-ranked Cunha and No. 17 Zsiga traded breaks throughout the first set with Cunha coming out on top, 6-4. The Duke junior then took the second set by a 6-1 margin to garner his 23rd win over a ranked opponent. Cunha also moved to 38-8 this season in singles action with a 24-4 ledger at the top spot in the lineup.
Hemmeler battled to a 6-4, 5-4 advantage against Galeano of Baylor in the No. 5 matchup, but it was 38th-ranked Mengel who would close out the 4-0 victory for the Blue Devils. Mengel defeated No. 86 Maytin, 7-5, 6-4, to clinch his sixth match of the season and improve to 31-12 overall on the year.
"That was awesome. I haven't really had a great ending to the year, so that was important for me individually," Mengel said. "Baylor is a good team - they're definitely under-ranked - so we needed the doubles point to make things a little easier on us."
The win sets up a quarterfinal meeting with top-seeded and three-time reigning champion USC Sunday, May 20 at 12 p.m. on the Henry Feild Courts at the University of Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The Blue Devils will make an appearance in the tournament's quarterfinals for the seventh time in program history and the first time since 2001.
"USC is the team to beat," Smith said. "They certainly have some pressure on them - I think this is the first year they've been seeded No. 1. We have beat them the last two years. They got us pretty handily at National Indoors but we know we can beat them ... We're in a really good place right now so we're going to give them everything we've got and we're looking forward to it."
#8 Duke 4, #25 Baylor 0
NCAA Div. I Men's Tennis Championship - Round of 16
May 18, 2012 at Athens, Ga.
(Dan Magill Tennis Complex)
1. #16 Henrique Cunha/Chris Mengel (DU) vs. Diego Galeano/Mate Zsiga (BAY) 5-7, unfinished
2. David Holland/Fred Saba (DU) def. #45 Kike Grangeiro/Roberto Maytin (BAY) 8-4
3. Raphael Hemmeler/Torsten Wietoska (DU) def. Julian Bley/Marko Krickovic (BAY) 8-2
1. #5 Henrique Cunha (DU) def. #17 Mate Zsiga (BAY) 6-4, 6-1
2. #38 Chris Mengel (DU) def. #86 Roberto Maytin (BAY) 7-5, 6-4
3. #113 Torsten Wietoska (DU) vs. Marko Krickovic (BAY) 6-4, 3-5, unfinished
4. Fred Saba (DU) vs. Diego Galeano (BAY) 3-6, 5-6, unfinished
5. Raphael Hemmeler (DU) vs. Kike Grangeiro (BAY) 6-4, 5-4, unfinished
6. Jason Tahir (DU) def. Julian Bley (BAY) 7-5, 6-0
Baylor 19-12; National ranking #25
Duke 25-5; National ranking #8
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (6,1,2)