DURHAM, N.C. – The seventh-ranked Duke men’s tennis team suffered a season-opening 4-3 loss to No. 64 Elon Friday evening at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center. The Blue Devils rallied after dropping the doubles point but were unable to hold off Elon in decisive third sets on three courts in singles.
“[Elon head coach] Michael Leonard has done a great job with this group of guys and they outplayed us tonight,” said Duke head coach Ramsey Smith.
The two teams played under the new experimental scoring format for the first time, battling to six-game sets in doubles with no-ad scoring and tiebreakers at 5-5. Singles play also featured no-ad scoring and tiebreakers at 5-5.
The tandem of junior Jason Tahir and senior Fred Saba led the charge in doubles, coming from behind to force a tiebreak against Elon’s Cameron Silverman and Stefan Fortmann in the match on court one. The Blue Devil duo finished strong in the tiebreak, taking the final three points for a season-opening 6-5 (7-4) victory.
“It was a good win for Fred and Jason at No. 1,” Smith said. “That’s a good, established team and they were down early and were able to come back so that’s encouraging. I feel like the other two spots came out a little careful and Elon came out swinging and we were on our heels a little bit.”
After junior Raphael Hemmeler and sophomore Bruno Semenzato suffered a 6-4 loss to Robert Lindgren and Brian Kowalski of Elon on court two, the doubles point came down to a tiebreak in the No. 3 matchup. In that contest, sophomore Daniel McCall and redshirt junior Cale Hammond had an early 4-1 advantage in the set but fell in the tiebreaker to Elon’s Juan Madrid and Jordan Kaufman, 6-5 (7-5).
Trailing 1-0 in the match, Duke rebounded to start strong in singles play. Saba rolled to a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Fortmann at the No. 2 position before sophomore Josh Levine followed minutes later with a 6-3, 6-2 win against Madrid on court five. Saba moved his overall singles ledger to 5-2 while Levine improved to 14-3 on the season.
The Blue Devils took a 3-1 advantage as 95th-ranked Semenzato defeated Elon’s Lindgren in three sets, 6-0, 3-6, 6-0, at the No. 3 spot. The win also gave Semenzato a 13-4 mark in singles for the year. However, the Phoenix responded with a victory at the No. 6 slot, as Hammond dropped a 5-6 (7-9), 6-0, 6-3 decision to Kaufman. Tahir, ranked 52nd in the latest ITA poll, then surrendered a hard-fought 6-5 (7-4), 3-6, 6-1 loss to No. 25 Silverman on court one, evening the score of the match at 3-3.
In the remaining contest on court four, Hemmeler battled back from a 3-6 first-set loss to Kowalski of Elon to take the second set, 6-2. The junior from Zurich, Switzerland came from behind to force a tiebreaker in the decisive set and staved off a couple of match points before Kowalski sealed the 4-3 win for the Phoenix.
Duke returns to the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center Sunday, Jan. 17 to host No. 9 Kentucky and nearby NC Central in a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m.
#64 Elon University 4, #7 Duke 3
Jan 17, 2014 at Durham, N.C. (Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center)
1. Jason Tahir/Fred Saba (DU) def. Cameron Silverman/Stefan Fortmann (ELON) 6-5 (7-4)
2. Robert Lindgren/Brian Kowalski (ELON) def. Raphael Hemmeler/Bruno Semenzato (DU) 6-4
3. Juan Madrid/Jordan Kaufman (ELON) def. Daniel McCall/Cale Hammond (DU) 6-5 (7-5)
1. #25 Cameron Silverman (ELON) def. #52 Jason Tahir (DU) 6-5 (7-4), 3-6, 6-1
2. Fred Saba (DU) def. Stefan Fortmann (ELON) 6-2, 6-1
3. #95 Bruno Semenzato (DU) def. Robert Lindgren (ELON) 6-0, 3-6, 6-0
4. Brian Kowalski (ELON) def. Raphael Hemmeler (DU) 6-3, 2-6, 6-5 (7-3)
5. #77 Josh Levine (DU) def. Juan Madrid (ELON) 6-3, 6-2
6. Jordan Kaufman (ELON) def. Cale Hammond (DU) 5-6 (7-9), 6-0, 6-3
Elon University 1-0; National ranking #64
Duke 0-1; National ranking #7
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (2,5,3,6,1,4)