DURHAM, N.C. – The No. 19 Duke men’s tennis team (3-0) kicks off the home portion of its season this weekend, hosting No. 12 Illinois (2-0) and Northwestern (2-2). First serve against the Fighting Illini is set for 6 p.m. Friday with the match versus the Wildcats at 12 noon Sunday.
All regular season Duke men’s tennis home events at Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center and Ambler Tennis Stadium are free to the public. General public parking is available in the Blue Zone parking lot off Duke University Road. Friday’s match is a Royal Blue Club event.
Illinois Series History
Friday’s contest will be the 24th meeting between the Blue Devils and the Fighting Illini with Illinois holding a 16-7 advantage in the series … The two squads have met annually since the beginning of the 1999 campaign … The teams have split the last six meetings after Duke endured a 10-match losing streak from 2003-11 … Illinois is 6-4 in Durham, but the Blue Devils have won two of the last three home matches, taking a 7-0 decision in 2012 and a 5-2 victory in 2014 before falling 4-3 in 2016 … Last year’s contest in Champaign also went down to the wire as Duke held a 3-1 lead in the match before the Fighting Illini came back with the final three singles decisions to claim the victory … In their dual match singles careers against Illinois, Nick Stachowiak is 1-0, Catalin Mateas is 1-1, Robert Levine and Spencer Furman are 0-1 and Nicolas Alvarez is 0-2.
Scouting the Fighting Illini
Illinois is 2-0 in dual match play after traveling to Norman, Okla., for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend and downing Georgia Tech and No. 18 Oklahoma … Illinois’ lineup is anchored by seniors Aleks Vukic and Aron Hiltzik, who have filled the top two spots of the order in both dual matches … Hiltzik went 2-0 last weekend and is fresh off a 6-2, 6-0 upset of No. 17 Ferran Calvo of Oklahoma on Sunday … Freshman Caleb Chakravarthi also went 2-0, capturing both of his ITA Kick-Off Weekend matches from court six.
Northwestern Series History
The Blue Devils hold a 7-3 lead in the all-time series with the Wildcats as the two resumed the series in 2013 following a 28-year break … Duke has won seven of the last nine matches after dropping the initial contest on March 23, 1967 … The Blue Devils fell in a 4-2 decision a year ago in Evanston, but are 3-2 in Durham versus the Wildcats … Last spring, Duke trailed 2-0 only to force a 2-2 tie and have the Wildcats take the final two matches, both of which lasted 10 or more games in the final set … In their dual match singles careers, Alvarez is 2-0, Stachowiak and Furman are 1-0, Levine is 0-1 and Mateas is 0-2.
Scouting the Wildcats
Northwestern is off to a 2-2 start for its dual match season, also traveling to Norman for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend … Northwestern fell 4-1 to No. 18 Oklahoma, but bounced back Sunday with a 4-1 victory against Georgia Tech … Freshman Antonioni Fasano has filled the top spot in Northwestern’s lineup, going 1-2 … Sophomore Dominik Starý is 2-2 in the No. 2 position while freshman Nick Brookes went 2-0 on court three last weekend … In doubles, Starý and junior Ben Vandixhorn are 2-2 at No. 1 while Brookes and Fasano are 0-4 on court two.
“This is one of my favorite weekends of the year,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “We’ve been playing Illinois home and away for nearly 20 years. We have a great rivalry with them and always play them on a Friday night. It is one of my favorite matches. The atmosphere is going to be great. They have a very good team this year, one that is an established top-10 team. This is going to be a great challenge. Then we come right back and play Northwestern on Sunday. I’m really excited to be home, playing indoors and in front of our crowd. We’re off to a good start and the guys are riding a good wave of momentum. We hope to take that into this weekend.”
Off to a 3-0 Start
For the first time since the 2015 campaign, Duke is 3-0 through three dual matches … The Blue Devils began 2-1 in 2017 and 1-2 in 2016 … In the 2015 season, Duke went on to have the best 14-match record in program history at 13-1.
Winning Inside Sheffield Tennis Center
Duke has won 35 of its last 43 home indoor matches (.814 winning percentage) … The Blue Devils have captured their home indoor opener in 13 of the last 14 years.
Taking on a Ranked Opponent
For the first time this season, the Blue Devils will face a ranked foe with No. 12 Illinois … Last season, Duke faced 13 ranked programs and went 3-10 against them … The Blue Devils’ highest-ranked win of the year was a 5-2 decision against No. 27 Florida State … Duke played eight matches against foes ranked within the top 17 at the time of the contest, going 0-8, but falling three times by 4-3 finals.
Excelling Outside the ACC
During the last four-plus years, Duke has gone 38-15 (.717 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.
Starting Singles with a 1-0 Lead
Duke has captured the doubles point in all three matches this season, going on to win all three contests … In the last four years, Duke owns a 44-9 record (.830 winning percentage) when winning the doubles point … The Blue Devils already have three doubles points this year after collecting 17 in 2017, 11 in 2016 and 21 in 2015.
Duke Up to No. 19 in Oracle/ITA Poll and Three Appear in ITA Singles Rankings
Coming off the ITA Kick-Off Weekend championship, the Blue Devils shot up five spots to No. 19 in this week’s Oracle/ITA poll … Duke has three ranked singles players, led by redshirt junior Alvarez at No. 48 ... Sophomore Furman is No. 81 while sophomore Levine is No. 90.
Dickerson on a Roll
Junior Ryan Dickerson is 3-0 in dual match play and has won six straight matches overall … Dating back to the 2017 campaign, Dickerson owns an 18-4 record in his last 22 contests and is 10-1 in his last 11 dual matches … Dickerson’s last loss was a 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (6) decision to Gardner-Webb’s Millen Hurrion on October 27 at the Charlotte 49ers Fall Invitational … Dickerson earned a career-best 22 victories during the 2016-17 campaign after going 12-8 as a freshman in 2015-16.
“We know what we get from Ryan,” Smith said. “He has been around for a couple of years now and has been so solid in the bottom of the lineup. He is playing some of his best tennis right now.”
A Strong Start for Sculley
Freshman Sean Sculley joins Dickerson as the only Blue Devils to be 3-0 in dual match singles play … Sculley owns an 11-3 overall record, is 9-1 in his last 10 contests and has won seven straight matches … Sculley is 2-0 on court four and 1-0 on court five … Sculley has also teamed with Stachowiak, a sophomore, in doubles, playing on court one for all three dual matches.
“It has been really neat to see Sean in his first dual matches and how well he competes,” Smith said. “He raises his game when it has been needed. He has been an awesome dual match player so far. You cannot start any better than how he has in singles.”
Last Time Out
The Blue Devils secured their trip to the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship by sweeping San Diego 4-0 on Sunday to capture the Fort Worth ITA Kick-Off Weekend … Duke took the early lead by winning the doubles point … San Diego struck first with a 6-2 win by August Holmgren and Joel Gamerov versus juniors Jason Lapidus and Dickerson on court two, but Duke rebounded with victories on courts one and three … Sculley and Stachowiak got the ball rolling Duke’s way with a 6-4 win on court one against Gui Osorio and Nico Borter … Furman and Mateas, a junior, finished off the doubles point, flipping a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 advantage and never relinquishing the lead, topping David Norfeldt and Pratt Keerasuntonpong, 6-3 … On court four, Sculley earned the first singles victory, downing Borter 6-3, 6-3 … Dickerson earned his second victory of the weekend on court five, defeating Alexandros Araouzos 7-5, 6-2 … Furman clinched the match on court two, taking a 7-6 (6), 6-2 victory against Holmgren.
Duke has a split weekend, playing at Tennessee for a 7 p.m. serve Friday, February 9, before returning home for a Sunday doubleheader against Kentucky and N.C. Central on February 11 … First serve with the Wildcats is set for 1 p.m. while the contest against the Eagles will begin at 6 p.m.