DURHAM, N.C. – For the third time this season, senior TJ Pura clinched an ACC match for the Blue Devils as the Duke men’s tennis team secured its first ranked win of the season Friday at Ambler Tennis Stadium, upending No. 27 Florida State 5-2. With the win, the Blue Devils remain strong at home, improving to 10-1.
For the clincher, Pura defeated Rana-Roop Singh Bhullar 6-2, 6-2 on court five. The victory gave Pura a career high for singles wins in a year with 23 and pushed his league record to 6-0. Freshman Spencer Furman also helped the Blue Devils’ cause, picking up his third nationally ranked singles win in the last three weeks, downing No. 52 Aziz Dougaz 6-1, 6-2 on court one. Furman and doubles partner Nick Stachowiak clinched the doubles point for Duke on court one with their first win versus a nationally ranked team.
“We’re starting to become more of a whole team,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “We’re getting healthier. Today was the first time in more than a month that I was able to list more than six names on the lineup sheet. It feels a lot better. We’re ready to finish strong. The guys have stayed positive through some tough times. This is just one match, but I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
Duke started fast in doubles with Pura and sophomore Catalin Mateas blanking Terrell Whitehurst and Terrance Whitehurst 6-0 on court three. Pura and Mateas improve to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in league action.
Seconds later, Florida State evened the doubles action on court two with Jose Gracia and Lucas Poullain topping sophomores Ryan Dickerson and Jason Lapidus 6-2. With the match tied at the first two points, the Seminole duo ripped off the last four games to capture the match. Dickerson and Lapidus fall to 6-4 overall and 2-4 in ACC play.
The doubles action shifted to court one, where freshmen Stachowiak and Furman held off the No. 71 team of Dougaz and Guy Iradukunda, 6-4. The Blue Devils broke to take a 2-1 lead, but FSU answered immediately with a break to retie the set at 2-2. With the set even at 3-3, Duke converted a break point to take a 4-3 lead. The Blue Devils held on their serve and FSU held on its to give Duke a 5-4 advantage. With Stachowiak serving, Duke fell into a 30-0 hole, but captured the next four points with a Stachwiak ace ending the match. Stachowiak and Furman improve to 15-1 overall and 3-1 against league foes. The victory was Stachowiak’s 23rd of the year in doubles, tying him for ninth on the Duke all-time freshman doubles wins chart.
“That was a huge clincher to win the doubles point,” Smith said. “They came through in the clutch. Winning the doubles point was huge. The two have this natural chemistry. They’re super intense and focused. They return incredibly well. They have been as good as I could have ever expected them to be.”
Furman kept the momentum going in singles with a quick 6-1, 6-2 victory against No. 52 Dougaz on court one. Furman, ranked No. 76, turned a 1-1 tie into 10 straight games to capture the first set and lead 4-0 in the second on the path to victory. Furman is now 19-6 overall, 5-2 in ACC action and 2-1 on court one.
The Blue Devils made it a 3-0 advantage on court three, where No. 95 Mateas breezed past Poullain 6-1, 6-1. The first set had Mateas lead 2-0 before Poullain got a game back, but Mateas answered with four straight victories to take the set. In the second set, Mateas trailed 1-0 before ripping off the last six games. Mateas improves to 19-12 overall and 3-3 in league competition.
Duke clinched the match on court five with Pura’s triumph against Bhullar. Pura fell behind 2-0 in the first set before answering with six straight victories. The second set was even at the first two points before Pura ran off the last four games for the win. Pura ups his overall mark to 23-9 and league record to 6-0.
“Today was the healthiest and strongest lineup we’d played all year,” Pura said. “Being able to do that, we knew coming into the match we would be in a good spot. Whether we won or lost, we knew we were playing the best lineup we had, so the confidence was pretty high. We have to stay humble and keep working hard.”
The Blue Devils added a fifth point with Dickerson’s 7-5, 6-0 victory against Terrance Whitehurst on court six. In the first set, the two were even at each of the first five points before Dickerson went on an eight-game march to end the match. Dickerson improves to 16-6 overall and 4-3 versus ACC opponents.
Florida State got its first point from court two, where No. 125 Iradukunda defeated freshman Robert Levine 7-5, 7-5. Levine, who was playing his first career ACC match, was tied at each of the first five points in the opening set before Iradukunda took the last two games. The second set had Levine turn a 2-2 tie into a 4-2 advantage, but Iradukunda fought back with a break and hold to knot the set at 4-4. Levine took a 5-4 lead, but Iradukunda won the last three games for the match. Levine dips to 17-12 overall.
“I give a big credit to Robert,” Smith added. “He has been out for a month with mono and hasn’t had a lot of preparation to play. But he went out there and really pushed a nationally ranked player. He did a tremendous job. That really helped us win the match. It gave everyone a lot of confidence. There was rust, but he competed great. He gave himself a chance, battling both sets. He was super positive and it spread to the other five guys.”
Tallying the final point for the Seminoles was Gracia on court four as he fought off Stachowiak 7-5, 7-6 (6). The opening set was tied at each of the first five points before Gracia took the last two games. In the second set, Stachowiak was broken with a 2-2 tie and trailed 3-2 and 5-3. Stachowiak regrouped and rallied to knot the set at 5-5. With it even at 6-6, the set went to the tiebreaker. Stachowiak held leads of 3-1 and 4-3 in the tiebreaker before Gracia responded to force tied at 4-4 and 5-5. Gracia had a match point with a 6-5 lead, but Stachowiak got the point for a 6-6 tie. Gracia then secured the final two points for the win. Stachowiak slips to 27-9 and 3-4 versus ACC opponents.
Duke heads on the road next weekend, starting the swing at No. 15 Georgia Tech with a 5 p.m. Friday match. The Blue Devils end the weekend at Clemson with a 1 p.m. Sunday, April 9, tilt.
Duke 5 No. 27 Florida State 2
March 31, 2017 at Durham, N.C. (Ambler Tennis Stadium)
1. Spencer Furman/Nick Stachowiak (DU) def. #71 Aziz Dougaz/Guy Iradukunda (FS) 6-4
2. Jose Gracia/Lucas Poullain (FS) def. Jason Lapidus/Ryan Dickerson (DU) 6-2
3. Catalin Mateas/TJ Pura (DU) def. Terrell Whitehurst/Terrance Whitehurst (FS) 6-0
1. #76 Spencer Furman (DU) def. #52 Aziz Dougaz (FS) 6-1, 6-2
2. #125 Guy Iradukunda (FS) def. Robert Levine (DU) 7-5, 7-5
3. #95 Catalin Mateas (DU) def. Lucas Poullain (FS) 6-1, 6-1
4. Jose Gracia (FS) def. Nick Stachowiak (DU) 7-5, 7-6 (8-6)
5. TJ Pura (DU) def. Rana-Roop Singh Bhullar (FS) 6-2, 6-2
6. Ryan Dickerson (DU) def. Terrance Whitehurst (FS) 7-5, 6-0
Florida State 13-6, 3-2 ACC; National ranking #27
Duke 11-7, 4-3 ACC
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (1,3,5,6,2,4)
Official: Joseph Buys T-2:30 A-201