SEATTLE, Wash. - No. 17 Duke advanced to the semifinals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships with a 4-1 victory over No. 11 Florida on Saturday at the Nordstrom Tennis Center in Seattle, Wash.
"The theme of the match today was mental toughness from our guys," said head coach Ramsey Smith. "I thought everyone fought and competed so well. The guys that lost first sets were able to hang around and stay out there to help keep the match going. I was really pleased with our resilience."
Duke improved to 9-2 on Saturday after handing the Gators their second loss of the season. The Blue Devils will move on to face No. 3 Tennessee at 3 p.m. (ET) tomorrow for a spot in the finals. The two schools met one week ago in Durham with the Volunteers handing Duke a 7-0 loss on their home court in a match that was closer than the final score.
For the second straight day a Duke senior clinched the win for the Blue Devils. Jared Pinsky was handed a 6-1 loss in his first set but would not quit and came back to take his match into a third set after winning the second set, 6-3. Pinsky and his opponent, Andrew Butz exchanged games until Pinsky took two straight for a 6-5 lead. Butz bounced back to break Pinsky and force a tiebreaker. With the score tied at 4-4 in the tiebreaker, Pinsky hit two aggressive shots to take a 6-4 lead and would wind up winning it 7-5 to send Duke on to the next round with his 19th win of the season.
"I didn't really know what was happening on the other courts so I thought it could come down to my match," said Pinsky. "After a slow start I hung in there and kept fighting. I knew I had put in the work and I just needed to find a way to keep staying aggressive and change my strategy a little bit."
The Blue Devils gained an early lead in the match, winning at the No. 1 and 3 doubles position for the first team point in the match. David Holland and Chris Mengel were the first to finish, earning their 10th win of the year as a duo. They defeated Billy Federhofer and Bob van Overbeek, 8-4. The top doubles match featured two pairs ranked in the top 15. It was Duke's No. 9 Reid Carleton and Henrique Cunha claiming an 8-5 win over No. 15 Alex Lacroix and Nassim Slilam. The two Blue Devils are now 9-1 in dual matches, 7-2 against ranked opponents and 21-3 overall.
"The doubles point was key and I was very happy with our doubles today," said Smith. "For the first time in a few matches I felt like all three teams were locked in and playing well."
Freshman Fred Saba earned the Blue Devils' first point against Southern California yesterday and today set the tone in singles for Duke again with the first win of the day. He picked up a straight set victory, 7-6 (4), 6-3 over No. 74 Bob van Overbeek. Both of Saba's wins at the National Team Indoor Championships have been over ranked opponents, the first two of his career.
For the second straight day, No. 10 Henrique Cunha suffered a loss to a fellow top 10 opponent. Lacroix, the ninth-ranked player in the country, edged Cunha in a first set tiebreaker, 7-3, and then took the second set 6-3 to cut Duke's lead to 2-1. It is the first time in Cunha's collegiate career he has lost three consecutive matches as he has faced three straight top 25 competitors.
Carleton's singles match went the opposite direction as Cunha's. Carleton, the hero of Friday's match, was able to come out on top in his first set tiebreaker, 7-5, and then cruised to a 6-2 win to close out the match in straight sets over No. 43 Sekou Bangoura. The win was Carleton's 13th over a ranked opponent as he improved to 21-4 on the season.
The singles matches at the No. 3 and 6 spots did not finish due to the match being decided.
Tennis Match Results
Duke vs Florida
Feb. 19, 2011 at Seattle, Wash.
#17 Duke 4, #11 Florida 1
1. #9 Reid Carleton/Henrique Cunha (Duke) def. #15 Alexandre Lacroix/Nassim Slilam (UF) 8-5
2. Sekou Bangoura Jr./Andrew Butz (UF) vs. Jared Pinsky/Fred Saba (Duke) 7-6, unfinished
3. David Holland/Chris Mengel (Duke) def. Billy Federhofer/Bob van Overbeek (UF) 8-4
1. #9 Alexandre Lacroix (UF) def. #10 Henrique Cunha (Duke) 7-6 (7-3), 6-3
2. #6 Reid Carleton (Duke) def. #43 Sekou Bangoura Jr. (UF) 7-6 (7-5), 6-2
3. Nassim Slilam (UF) vs. Chris Mengel (Duke) 6-3, 2-6, 5-3, unfinished
4. Fred Saba (Duke) def. #74 Bob van Overbeek (UF) 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
5. Jared Pinsky (Duke) def. Andrew Butz (UF) 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5)
6. Spencer Newman (UF) vs. Luke Marchese (Duke) 6-3, 4-6, 1-4, unfinished
Duke 9-2; National ranking #17
Florida 7-2; National ranking #11
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (4,1,2,5)