SEATTLE - The No. 20 Duke men’s tennis team was down to match point against No. 22 Notre Dame, trailing 3-0 to the Fighting Irish in the ITA Team Indoor Championship at the Seattle Tennis Club. Four singles matches later, the Blue Devils came away with a 4-3 win to cap the indoor portion of the season.
Down 3-0, Duke got wins from its top three courts and court six to come back for the victory. Junior Jason Lapidus, sophomore Nick Stachowiak, redshirt junior Nicolas Alvarez and junior Catalin Mateas won in three sets in succession to complete the comeback.
“Obviously that was a great comeback,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “It was really nice to finish the weekend on a big win like that. I have a lot of respect for Notre Dame. They have such a good team that is well coached. They were deserving to win that match, but somehow we hung around long enough to give ourselves a chance. We had a bunch of things go our way. Our guys hung in there and competed. It is pretty special to come back from 3-0 down to pull off a win like that. There was phenomenal effort from each of our last four matches.”
The victory is Duke’s first against a top-25 program since topping No. 23 Stanford on May 9, 2015, in the first round of the NCAA Team Championship. It was the Blue Devils’ first 4-3 triumph since defeating No. 39 Louisville on April 21, 2017.
“This is huge for us,” Lapidus said. “We talk about schools that do an amazing job pulling matches out no matter what else is going on or what kind of adversity they’re facing. The past three years, I’ve wanted to be that team everyone is talking about. It’s awesome to see all the hard work me and my teammates have put in paying off. We lost a couple of those very close ones my freshman and sophomore years. This year, if we had played out a couple more matches, we would have probably had 4-3 finals. I think we’ve been in this scenario before, so guys knew how to handle it. I think everybody did a great job of staying super composed and maintaining the right game style throughout the third sets. It was great for us.”
Mateas provided to final point, topping No. 118 Guillermo Cabrera 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (4) on court two.
“So far, we’ve done a good job bouncing back from losses,” Mateas said. “I think the first two days, we took a little bit of a hit because we lost pretty quickly. Guys were a little down, but I think we did a good job bouncing back. Everybody put in such a good effort today. This could be a big turn in our season for the better. This helps our record, ranking and morale of the team. Everybody is going to be excited about this.”
The match began with Notre Dame capturing the doubles point, winning on courts one and two. Richard Ciamarra and Matt Gamble scored the first victory, taking a 6-3 decision on court two against Alvarez and Mateas. The set was even at 1-1 before Notre Dame went on a hold, break and hold run to open up a 4-2 lead. Duke never got closer than two games the rest of the way. Alvarez and Mateas suffered their first loss of the year and fall to 3-1.
On court one, Brendon Kempin and Tristan McCormick held off Stachowiak and freshman Sean Sculley, 6-4, to take the point. The set was even at 1-1, 2-2 and 3-3 before Notre Dame broke and held to take a 5-3 lead. Duke held on its serve, but Notre Dame served out for the win. Stachowiak and Sculley dip to 9-7 overall and 4-5 in dual competition.
The Fighting Irish pushed their advantage to 2-0 with the first decision in singles with Gamble topping junior Ryan Dickerson, 6-0, 6-1, on court five. Dickerson drops to 12-8 overall and 5-5 in dual action.
Notre Dame tacked on another point from court four to go up 3-0 as Ciamarra downed Sculley, 6-2, 6-2. The first set had Sculley fall behind 3-0 and 4-1 before Sculley picked up another game, but got no closer than 4-2. The second set had Sculley trail just 3-2, but Ciamarra ripped off the final three games for the match. Sculley dips to 11-8 overall and 3-5 in dual matches.
The comeback began on court six with Lapidus defeating Grayson Broadus 6-0, 2-6, 7-6 (6). After splitting one-sided sets, the two were never separated by more than a game in the third set. Lapidus broke to go up 4-3, but Broadus broke back to knot the set at 4-4. It was even at 5-5 and Lapidus held serve to force a tiebreaker. Once in the tiebreaker, Lapidus turned a 2-2 tie into a 5-2 advantage, only to have Broadus go ahead 6-5. Lapidus took the final three points for the win. The win moves Lapidus to 9-4 overall and 2-1 in dual matches.
“I’m really proud of Jason to be ready to play,” Smith said. “Guys who aren’t in the top six, you always tell them to be ready to play, but it’s hard to be mentally ready when you’re not expecting to play. He had a great start and an amazing finish. I’m really proud of him for how far he’s come during his couple years at Duke. It’s pretty special to see him in that moment come through for us.”
Lapidus said, “I have played a lot of doubles my whole career here so doubles has been an emphasis. I think today was a testament to my teammates for always believing and trusting me. During practices, they’re saying my singles game is good and that I’m not just a doubles specialist. When I was out there, I just knew my teammates had my back and believed in me. That’s the biggest thing. I knew my teammates were there for me. They were right next to me, supporting me on the court. I trusted my preparation, teammates and coaching. It turned in my favor in the end.”
The three-set march continued on court three with Stachowiak holding off McCormick 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. Stachowiak flipped a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 lead in the first set and held on. The second had McCormick take the 4-1 lead, only to have Stachowiak win three straight and knot the set at 4-4. McCormick took the final two games to force a deciding set. Stachowiak served for the set in the third leading 5-4, but McCormick broke and knotted the set at 5-5. Stachowiak answered with a break and hold for the win. He is now 17-5 overall and 6-2 in dual competition.
Court one had No. 53 Alvarez come back to defeat No. 28 Alex Lebedev 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to even the match at 3-3 overall. The first set was even at 3-3 before Lebedev won three of the final four games. In the second, Alvarez ran off the final three games after a 3-3 tie for the win. In the third set, Alvarez broke in game one and led 2-0. He kept the two-game advantage at 3-1 and 4-2. Lebedev got it down to 4-3 and 5-4, but Alvarez served out for the victory. The win is Alvarez’s second against a ranked foe this season and he improves to 9-2 overall and 4-0 in dual matches.
“Nick and Nicolas were both fantastic,” Smith said. “We would not have been in position without the two of them. Nicolas was amazing competing, changing his game style and being willing to adapt. Nick lost the second set and was down in the third, but came back. There were so many ups and downs.”
For Mateas’ three-set clincher, he was even in the first set at 5-5, but Cabrera broke and held to end the set. Mateas cruised through the second set to force the third. With the deciding set tied at 1-1, Cabrera held and broke to take a 3-1 lead. Mateas rallied with a break and hold to knot the set at 3-3. Cabrera and Mateas exchanged breaks at 4-4 with Mateas then holding to take a 5-4. Cabrera again had the answer, breaking to even the set at 5-5. With the set in the tiebreaker, it was even at 3-3 before Mateas ran off four of the final five points to give Duke the victory. Mateas is now 7-5 overall and 2-2 versus dual competition.
From down 3-0 to a 4-3 win. Mateas with match point! pic.twitter.com/0EooLbwqHK— Duke Men's Tennis (@DukeMTEN) February 18, 2018
“I’ve always wanted to have the opportunity to clinch a really big match, so this was pretty cool,” Mateas said. “I’ve never clinched when it was 3-3. This was pretty special. I was trying to stay calm, as much as I could, out there.”
“Catalin won the decider, but it felt like our last four guys who won, won deciders,” Smith said. “It happened to come down to Catalin. He served for the match twice in the third set after being down a break earlier in the third set. He didn’t get it, but kept his composure, stayed aggressive and played on his terms in the tiebreaker. It was a huge win for him and his confidence.”
Duke returns home for a doubleheader Saturday against Coastal Carolina and Furman. First serve is at 10 a.m. against the Chanticleers and 3 p.m. against the Paladins. Weather permitting these will be the Blue Devils’ first matches at Ambler Tennis Stadium this year.
#20 Duke 4, #22 Notre Dame 3
February 18, 2018 at Seattle, Wash. (Seattle Tennis Club)
1. Brendon Kempin/Tristan McCormick (ND) def. Nick Stachowiak/Sean Sculley (DU) 6-4
2. Richard Ciamarra/Matt Gamble (ND) def. Nicolas Alvarez/Catalin Mateas (DU) 6-3
3. Ryan Dickerson/Jason Lapidus (DU) vs. Grayson Broadus/Guillermo Cabrera (ND) 6-5, unfinished
1. #53 Nicolas Alvarez (DU) def. #28 Alex Lebedev (ND) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
2. Catalin Mateas (DU) def. #118 Guillermo Cabrera (ND) 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4)
3. Nick Stachowiak (DU) def. Tristan McCormick (ND) 6-3, 4-6, 7-5
4. Richard Ciamarra (ND) def. Sean Sculley (DU) 6-2, 6-2
5. Matt Gamble (ND) def. Ryan Dickerson (DU) 6-0, 6-1
6. Jason Lapidus (DU) def. Grayson Broadus (ND) 6-0, 2-6, 7-6 (8-6)
Notre Dame 7-3; National ranking #22
Duke 7-4; National ranking #20
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (5,4,6,3,1,2)