DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke men’s tennis team opened the dual match portion of the spring season with a 6-1 victory against Elon on Monday afternoon inside the Sheffield Tennis Center. The Blue Devils dropped the doubles point, but came back with six straight singles victories to earn the win. Sophomore Catalin Mateas clinched the match for Duke.
“The thing I was most pleased about was how we rebounded after losing the doubles point,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “We had a couple guys get off the court early in singles and get us ahead in the overall score, which I think helped. We did a good job finishing strong the last couple of matches. This is a win under our belt, but we definitely have a couple areas we need to work on and improve. Overall, I'm really pleased with the start.”
With the victory, Duke has claimed 14 of its last 15 season openers while Smith improved to 8-1 in the first dual match of the year. The Blue Devils have also won six of their last eight matches against in-state foes.
Duke got off to a strong start in doubles with freshmen Spencer Furman and Nick Stachowiak picking up a 6-4 victory on court two against Taylor Foote and Petar Tomic. The Duke duo improved to 6-0 when playing together. Duke took an early 2-1 lead with a break and then held to go up 3-1. The pair led by at least one game the rest of the way.
Elon got its first doubles win on court one, where Felipe Sarrasague and Mario Paccini topped sophomores Mateas and Vincent Lin, 6-4. With the match even at 2-2, the Phoenix pair held, broke and held to take a seemingly-commanding 5-2 advantage. The Blue Devils answered with a hold and break of their own to cut the deficit to 5-4. With Duke serving and the game tied 40-40, a Blue Devil return went long to end the game and match. Mateas and Lin are now 4-4 this year.
The doubles action shifted to court three, where Elon came away with a 7-6 (3) win to capture the doubles point. The Phoenix’s Neal Port and Salvador Mijares took an early 2-0 lead against Duke senior TJ Pura and sophomore Jason Lapidus, but the Blue Devils answered with a break and hold to even the match at 2-2. From there, the teams held serve the rest of the way and went to the tiebreaker. After a 2-1 lead in the tiebreaker, Elon took two more points to go up 4-1. Duke got two back at 4-3, but Elon grabbed the final three for the win. Pura and Lapidus fall to 6-6 overall.
"Elon has very good doubles teams," Smith added. "We didn't play our best, but we didn't play horrible. They played well. We didn't execute in a couple areas. Our guys did a really good job of refocusing, putting the doubles behind them and getting off to really good starts in singles."
Duke evened the match at 1-1 with Lin first off the court, making quick work of Tomic on court three, winning 6-1, 6-3. In the second set, Lin broke and held at 2-2 to take a 4-2 lead and never looked back. He improved to 6-4 in singles this year.
The Blue Devils took their first lead at 2-1 with a Furman 6-3, 6-1 win versus Mijares from court four. Furman was tied 3-3 in the opening set before breezing to eight straight wins en route to the win. Furman upped his record to 7-1 this year.
"We were all super positive going into singles," Mateas said. "We are confident as a team in our singles play. All the guys did an awesome job not hanging heads or being sad about doubles. It was a good mentality."
Duke tacked on another point from court six, where Pura downed Port 6-3, 6-2. Pura jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening set before Port responded and evened the set at 3-3. Pura then won seven straight games to take the first set 6-3 and take a 4-0 advantage in the second set. Pura is now 12-6 this year.
The clinching point was provided by Mateas, who fought past Sarrasague, 6-2, 6-4, on court one. With the opening set even at 1-1, Mateas took three straight to lead 4-1 and held on for the victory. In the second set, Mateas again held a sizable advantage at 4-2, but Sarrasague answered with a break and hold to even the action at 4-4. Mateas then returned the favor with a hold and match-ending break. Mateas upped his overall record to 12-5.
Stachowiak gave Duke its fifth point, taking a 6-4, 7-6 (5) decision on court five against Felipe Osses-Konig. Stachowiak hopped out to a quick 4-1 lead in the first set, only to have Osses-Konig answer and even the set at 4-4. Stachowiak then responded with the final two wins of the set. In the second set, the two were never separated by more than a game and headed to the tiebreaker. Stachowiak jumped ahead 2-0 before trailing 4-2. Stachowiak then went on a march to even the breaker at 4-4 and take three of the final four points for the victory. Stachowiak improved to 15-4, leading the team in singles victories.
"We have a very deep team," Pura said. "I'm proud of our freshmen. I remember being a freshman and it's nice to have the work pay off, especially early on. I'm glad they got off to a strong start. They're a focused group of guys."
In the final match of the day, Levine finished off the singles sweep with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Paccini on court two. In the opening set, Levine opened with a break to go up 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 before Paccini evened the action at 4-4. Levine then broke and held to end the set. Paccini returned the favor in the second set, turning a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 lead. Levine broke to get it to 3-2, but Paccini took the final three games to force the deciding set. There, the two exchanged breaks at 2-2 and 3-2, ending up even at 3-3. Levine broke again and held to take command on the way to victory. Levine upped his overall mark to 13-7.
"Today was great for our freshmen," Smith said. "I thought they all looked good, especially for their first dual match. There are some different nerves in that. They all looked comfortable in that atmosphere, which is a really good thing for us."
Duke plays its first road match of the year Friday, traveling to No. 15 Kentucky for a 5 p.m. first serve.
Duke 6, Elon 1
January 16, 2017 at Durham, N.C. (Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center)
1. Felipe Sarrasague/Mario Paccini (ELON) def. Catalin Mateas/Vincent Lin (DU) 6-4
2. Nick Stachowiak/Spencer Furman (DU) def. Taylor Foote/Petar Tomic (ELON) 6-4
3. Neal Port/Salvador Mijares (ELON) def. Jason Lapidus/TJ Pura (DU) 7-6 (7-3)
1. Catalin Mateas (DU) def. Felipe Sarrasague (ELON) 6-2, 6-4
2. Robert Levine (DU) def. Mario Paccini (ELON) 6-4, 2-6, 6-3
3. Vincent Lin (DU) def. Petar Tomic (ELON) 6-1, 6-3
4. Spencer Furman (DU) def. Salvador Mijares (ELON) 6-3, 6-1
5. Nick Stachowiak (DU) def. Felipe Osses-Konig (ELON) 6-4, 7-6 (7-5)
6. TJ Pura (DU) def. Neal Port (ELON) 6-3, 6-2
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3); Singles (3,4,6,1,5,2)
Official: Alvin Klassen A-252 T-3:01