DURHAM, N.C. – The first home match of the season for the No. 19 Duke men’s tennis team resulted in the Blue Devils’ first setback of the campaign as No. 12 Illinois came away with a 6-1 victory Friday at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center. Duke falls to 3-1 while the Fighting Illini improve to 3-0.
“Congratulations to Illinois,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “I thought they played extremely well. I saw a lot of good things. Our guys competed well. We are now on to Sunday and focusing on Northwestern.”
For the first time this season, Duke dropped the doubles point as Illinois won on courts two and three. The Blue Devils actually struck first with a 6-2 win by Stachowiak and Sculley versus Aleks Vukic and Aron Hiltzik on court one. The Duke duo went up 3-0 early and Illinois never got closer than two games the rest of the set. Sculley and Stachowiak even their dual match record at 2-2.
The Fighting Illini finished off the doubles point, however, first winning 6-3 on court three. Illinois’ Alex Brown and Caleb Chakravarthi turned a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 advantage and never looked back in downing junior Catalin Mateas and sophomore Spencer Furman. On court two, Illinois captured the point with a 6-1 victory by Zeke Clark and Aleks Kovacevic against juniors Ryan Dickerson and Jason Lapidus. Mateas and Furman are now 2-1 while Dickerson and Lapidus are 2-2 in dual matches.
“I thought our No. 1 doubles team was tremendous,” Smith said. “Nick and Sean were tremendous. That was probably the singular best doubles match we’ve played all year. It was a little unfortunate we couldn’t get one of the other two matches. Illinois’ No. 3 doubles team served extremely well. On court two, we had deuce points the first three games. We were down 3-0 where we could have been ahead 3-0 and had a double break. The margins are very fine. So far this year, we’d won a lot of the close situations.”
In singles, Illinois made it 2-0 early as No. 81 Furman withdrew due to injury in the opening set to give Hiltzik the point.
“It was an unfortunate injury to Spencer,” Smith said. “He was playing very good tennis. I was looking forward to seeing that match play out.”
The Fighting Illini pushed their lead to 3-0 as Vukic topped Mateas 7-5, 6-2 on court one. In the opening set, the two were even at 2-2 before Vukic broke and held to go ahead 4-2. Mateas responded with a hold and break to knot the set at 4-4. It was even at 5-5 before Vukic won eight of the final 10 games for the victory. Mateas falls to 0-2 in dual matches.
Court four had the clinching point for Illinois as Kovacevic downed Sculley 6-2, 6-4. Sculley found himself in a 5-0 hole in the opening set before Kovacevic ended it. In the second set Sculley again trailed, falling behind 3-0. He rallied with four consecutive wins to take a 4-3 advantage, but Kovacevic had the answer and won the final two games. The setback was Sculley’s first in dual matches as he dips to 3-1.
Illinois ran the lead to 5-0 on court six, with Chakravarthi coming back for a 1-6, 6-3, 1-0 (4) victory against sophomore Robert Levine. Levine had the hot start to the match, going up 3-0 en route to winning the opening set. The second set was even at 1-1 before Chakravarthi took four straight to pull away. With the overall match determined, the two played a first-to-10 tiebreaker of a third set with Chakravarthi sprinting out to a 6-0 advantage before putting the match away. The dual match was the first of the season for Levine.
Duke captured its point on court three with Stachowiak coming back for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory against Brown. Stachowiak trailed 4-1 in the first set, but won three of four to close within 5-4. Brown had the answer and broke to end the set. In the second set, Stachowiak trailed 2-0 before breaking and holding to tie it at 2-2. With a 3-3 deadlock, Stachowiak broke and held to go up 5-3 and close out on serve. Stachowiak kept the pressure on in the third set, jumping ahead 4-0 before securing the match. He is now 2-1 in dual matches.
“Even when you lose a dual match like that, individual efforts can build confidence for that person,” Smith added. “Nick was tremendous. I thought he played well even in the first set, when he lost. He was playing a very tough opponent in Brown who was serving huge and not allowing Nick to get into much of a rhythm. We’ve been working with Nick on really bearing down, being gritty and being resilient. He was exactly that today. With that mindset, he can be a top player in college tennis. His doubles effort was incredible. He played amazing. It was a great day for him today.”
Illinois tallied its final point on court five with Clark coming back to down Dickerson 6-7 (2), 6-1, 1-0 (7). The first set was tied at points one through six, but Dickerson took control in the tiebreaker, leading 5-0. The second set had Clark respond by winning the first five games and forcing a best-to-10 tiebreaker of a third set. Dickerson got out to 2-0 and 6-3 leads in the tiebreaker, but Clark stormed back with seven of the final eight points for the victory. Dickerson’s winning streak was snapped at six matches and he slips to 3-1 in dual matches.
Duke wraps up its home stand with a 12 noon Sunday start against Northwestern.
#12 Illinois 6, #19 Duke 1
February 2, 2018 at Durham, N.C. (Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center)
1. Sean Sculley/Nick Stachowiak (DU) def. Aleks Vukic/Aron Hiltzik (ILL) 6-2
2. Zeke Clark/Aleks Kovacevic (ILL) def. Jason Lapidus/Ryan Dickerson (DU) 6-1
3. Alex Brown/Caleb Chakravarthi (ILL) def. Spencer Furman/Catalin Mateas (DU) 6-3
1. Aleks Vukic (ILL) def. Catalin Mateas (DU) 7-5, 6-2
2. Aron Hiltzik (ILL) def. #81 Spencer Furman (DU) 2-2, retired
3. Nick Stachowiak (DU) def. Alex Brown (ILL) 4-6, 6-4, 6-1
4. Aleks Kovacevic (ILL) def. Sean Sculley (DU) 6-2, 6-4
5. Zeke Clark (ILL) def. Ryan Dickerson (DU) 6-7 (2-7), 6-1, 1-0 (10-7)
6. Caleb Chakravarthi (ILL) def. #90 Robert Levine (DU) 1-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-4)
Illinois 3-0; National ranking #12
Duke 3-1; National ranking #19
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (2,1,4,6,3,5)
Official: Al Klassen T-2:34 A-490