DURHAM, N.C. – The No. 25 Duke men’s tennis team will begin the dual match portion of its 2018 campaign at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, traveling to Tempe, Ariz., to face Arizona State.
Arizona State Series History
Saturday’s contest marks the fourth all-time meeting between the Blue Devils and the Sun Devils with Duke holding a 3-0 advantage in the series … The squads have met just once since 1987 … In the last meeting, Duke topped Arizona State 4-2 on May 10, 2008, in the opening round of the NCAA Team Championship … The Sun Devils captured the doubles point before the Blue Devils stormed back with the final five singles decisions … Alex Stone clinched the match with a 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 win on court five against Wes Miller.
Special Connection to Arizona State
The Sun Devils are restarting their program in 2017-18 after halting the program following the 2008 campaign. Duke eliminated Arizona State from the 2008 NCAA Team Championship and a rematch will serve as the first match for the Sun Devils in 2018.
“This is a unique and special opportunity,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “This is a match that has multiple meanings. To have a major program and conference bring back a tennis program is a big deal. This match also happens to be in the new home of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) headquarters, which makes it pretty special. I know [Arizona State head coach] Matt Hill well. He is one of the best young coaches around and a good friend of mine.
“He reached out to me to see if we could do him a big favor,” Smith continued. “I think he’s looking to create a very special first match. We happened to be the last team to play them, so he asked if there was any way to fly out there and be the very first match. Chances like this don’t come along that often. I think it’s going to be a very special atmosphere – maybe something like you only see at the NCAA Tournament.”
Scouting the Sun Devils
Arizona State, which received votes in the Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) preseason poll, will play its first dual match since 2008 on Saturday … The Sun Devils return to NCAA competition with a heavily international roster … Benjamin Hannestad (Denmark) and Michael Geerts (Belgium) finished the fall ranked No. 44 and 51 nationally in singles … During October’s ITA Men’s All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla., sophomore Spencer Furman defeated ASU’s Tim Ruehl 6-4, 7-5 in the main draw Round of 64.
“We’re challenging ourselves early, which I like,” Smith said. “My philosophy is that you have to play the best to be the best. You look at our schedule this year, not just the first match, but our nonconference schedule from top to bottom is extremely challenging. As for our conference schedule, right now we have the best conference in the country. There are no easy matches. But it will make us tougher and better. I’m excited to see how our guys play. We had a very good fall and made some big improvements. I like where we are. Now it’s about going out there and playing.”
A Rare Road Opener
Saturday’s trip to Arizona State will mark Duke’s first time having its season-opening dual match on the road since a 9-0 victory at Hawai’i on January 9, 2013 … Duke has never played a true road match in Arizona, facing the Sun Devils at neutral sites all three times and the University of Arizona in neutral contests three times.
Strong in Season Openers …
Duke is 14-1 in its last 15 season-opening dual matches … The lone loss was a 4-3 setback to Elon on January 17, 2014.
… Especially Under Smith
Since the 2008-09 campaign when Smith took over the program, Duke has gone 8-1 in season openers with five wins coming via a sweep.
Looking for a Road Rebound
Duke finished the 2017 dual match season with a 3-7 road record … However, all seven of the team’s road losses came to foes ranked within the top 20 at the time of the matches.
Excelling Against Nonconference Opponents
During the last four years, Duke has gone 35-15 (.700 winning percentage) against nonconference opponents during the regular season … The Blue Devils have seven or more wins against nonconference foes in each of the last four years.
Where We Were in 2017
Duke finished the season standing 35th in the final Oracle/ITA rankings … Duke made its 25th showing in the NCAA Team Championship in the last 26 seasons, facing South Florida in the opening round of the event … Furman and classmate Nick Stachowiak also represented the Blue Devils at the NCAA Doubles Tournament, becoming the first Duke doubles team to reach the field since Nicolas Alvarez and Raphael Hemmeler in 2015.
A Fresh Face on the Roster
The Blue Devils welcome one true freshman to their roster this spring as Sean Sculley prepares for his first dual match … A blue chip prospect who owned a 13.43 Universal Tennis Ranking upon arriving in Durham, Sculley is a product of Smith Stearns Academy, headed up by Ramsey Smith’s father, Stan, a former number-one player in the world and former USTA Director of Coaching … Sculley took part in three events during his first fall on campus, playing to an 8-3 singles mark and 8-2 doubles record, including a combined 7-0 mark and singles and doubles flight championships at the Charlotte 49ers Fall Invitational.
Highlights from the 2017 Fall Season
- Alvarez, a redshirt junior, returned strong from injury and picked up 18 ATP points, including his first ATP Challenger main draw win and first professional Futures final
- Junior Jason Lapidus had a breakout semester winning three titles: The Duke James Bonk Invite B Singles and A1 Doubles (with Catalin Mateas), and Charlotte 49ers Fall Invitational A1 Doubles (with Sculley)
- Sculley finished his fall strong, sweeping top singles and doubles draws of the Charlotte 49ers Fall Invitational
- 2017 Team MVP Stachowiak leads the team with an 11-3 singles record and closed the fall campaign with a pair of titles, winning the A2 Singles Draw and A3 Doubles Draw at the Wake Forest Fall Invitational
- As a team, Duke achieved a 3.62 GPA for the fall semester
Duke continues its road swing and heads to Fort Worth, Texas, to take part in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend January 27-28 … The Blue Devils take on Louisville at 3 p.m. on Saturday, January 27, with host No. 10 TCU facing San Diego … The winners meet Sunday for the right to advance to the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship, held in Seattle, February 16-18.