Durham, N.C. – The No. 15 Duke men’s tennis team was only a few points away from pulling off the upset over No. 8 Illinois but the Fighting Illini was able to come away with the 4-3 victory at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center.
With the match tied 3-3 it came down to the No. 6 single match between Duke’s Alex Stone and Illinois’ Brandon Davis. Stone kept battling and fought off five different match points for Davis to stay alive. Davis was up 6-5 with ad-in three times but Stone answered with a big point every time and eventually would tie the set at 6-6 and force a tiebreaker. Davis went up 6-2 and Stone clawed his way for two straight points before Davis finally put him away for the 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (4) victory.
Illinois got off to a crucial 1-0 lead by taking two of the three doubles matches. As tightly contested as the final singles match, the three doubles matches all went back-and-forth. No. 36 Billy Heiser and Ryan Rowe of Illinois defeated David Goulet and Christopher Price 8-6 and then Davis and Ruben Gonzales won 9-8 (4) against Reid Carleton and Kiril Dimitrov. The Duke doubles team of Stone and Dylan Arnould was the only Blue Devils’ doubles team to win, defeating Waylon Chin and Marc Spicijaric 9-8 (4).
Duke came back with two straight singles wins to take a 2-1 lead in the match. Goulet and Arnould both stayed undefeated at 3-0 in dual match play. Goulet also earned his first victory over a ranked opponent when he upset No. 15 Ryan Rowe 6-2, 6-3 in the No. 2 position. Goulet improved to 7-1 overall in singles. Arnould improved to 8-5 with a 6-3, 6-4 win against Spicijaric.
Carleton played at the No. 3 position and after dropping the first set he rallied to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 against No. 70 Billy Heiser. Carleton is now 12-5 in singles after earning his first career win over a ranked opponent.
Needing just one victory for the win, Duke had three chances with the No. 1, 5 and 6 singles matches going into the third set. Dimitrov was the first to fall as he saw his five-match winning streak come to an end in a 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-1 loss to Gonzales. Jared Pinsky won his first set 6-4 and had a chance to earn the fourth singles win for the Blue Devils in the second set but Chin took the tiebreaker 7-6 (2) and then won the third set 6-3.
With the loss in the No. 6 singles match, the Blue Devils dropped to 2-1 on the season while the Fighting Illini improved to 2-1 on the year.
The Blue Devils will get another crack at a top-20 team on Sunday when they host No. 11 Notre Dame at 1 p.m. in the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center.
Final Results: No. 8 Illinois 4, No. 15 Duke 3
No. 1: #36 Billy Heiser/Ryan Rowe (Illinois) def. David Goulet/Christopher Price (Duke) 8-6
No. 2: Brandon Davis/Ruben Gonzales (Illinois) def. Reid Carleton/Kiril Dimitrov (Duke) 9-8 (4)
No. 3: Dylan Arnould/Alex Stone (Duke) def. Waylon Chin/Marc Spicijaric (Illinois) 9-8 (4)
No. 1: Ruben Gonzales (Illinois) def. Kiril Dimitrov (Duke) 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-1
No. 2: David Goulet (Duke) def. #15 Ryan Rowe (Illinois) 6-2, 6-3
No. 3: Reid Carleton (Duke) def. #70 Billy Heiser (Illinois) 3-6, 6-4, 6-4
No. 4: Dylan Arnould (Duke) def. Marc Spicijaric (Illinois) 6-3, 6-4
No. 5: Waylon Chin (Illinois) def. Jared Pinsky (Duke) 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3
No. 6: Brandon Davis (Illinois) def. Alex Stone (Duke) 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (4)
Order of Finish:
Doubles: 1, 2*, 3
Singles: 2, 4, 1, 3, 5, 6*