DURHAM, N.C. – After capturing the doubles point in dramatic fashion, the seventh-ranked men’s tennis team was unable to hold off No. 9 Kentucky in singles, falling by a 4-3 score Sunday afternoon at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center. The Blue Devils rebounded later in the day to record a 7-0 sweep over NC Central.
With the two matches, Duke moves to 1-2 on the season heading into ITA Kick-Off Weekend.
“Doubles was really good today,” said head coach Ramsey Smith. “We were obviously disappointed not to be able to get that third singles point [against Kentucky] .We played better than Friday but we certainly have some work to do.”
Kentucky took first sets on five of the six courts in singles in the first match of the day, with four first sets decided by tiebreakers.
The No. 1 singles contest featured a pair of nationally-ranked players, with 68th-ranked Tom Jomby of Kentucky topping No. 52 Jason Tahir, 6-3, 6-3. The Wildcats went up by a 3-1 score in the match as sophomore Daniel McCall fell to Ryuji Hirooka on court six, 6-5 (7-2), 6-1 and junior Raphael Hemmeler suffered a 6-5 (7-4), 6-1 setback to Jerry Lopez in the No. 4 spot.
Sophomore Bruno Semenzato, the 95th-ranked player in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s singles poll, battled back in his first set tiebreaker on court three but was bested by Kentucky’s Alejandro Gomez, 8-6. Gomez went on to clinch the match for the Wildcats with a 7-4 win in a crucial second set tiebreaker.
No. 77 Josh Levine was impressive in the No. 5 position for Duke, rebounding from a 6-2 first-set loss to Grant Roberts to take the next two sets by scores of 6-3, 6-3. In another bright spot for the Blue Devils, senior Fred Saba outlasted 55th-ranked Beck Pennington of Kentucky in a grueling three-set match on court two. Saba rallied from a 3-5 score in the first set and came from behind in the tiebreaker to win, 6-5 (8-6), before Pennington claimed the second set, 6-4. The third set was also decided by a tiebreaker, with Saba once again rallying for a 6-5 (7-5) victory.
The Wildcats had the early advantage in doubles as Jomby and Kevin Lai defeated the Duke duo of junior Tahir and Saba, 6-1. However the Blue Devils responded with a win on court three, where McCall and redshirt junior Cale Hammond teamed up for a 6-2 victory over Kentucky’s Lopez and Gomez.
With the doubles point down to the match on court two, junior Hemmeler and Semenzato rallied from a 5-2 deficit to force a tiebreak at 5-5 against Hirooka and Pennington. The tiebreaker was knotted at 4-all and 5-all before the Blue Devil tandem claimed the final two points for a 6-5 (7-5) victory, securing a 1-0 lead in the match for Duke.
Against NC Central, McCall and Hammond picked up their second win of the day, dispatching the Eagles’ Thomas Persico and Fabrice George by a 6-2 score in the No. 3 matchup. Hemmeler and Semenzato also tallied a win from the No. 2 position, downing the NC Central tandem of Stephan Charles-Donatien and Tamina Kienka, 6-2, to clinch the point for the Blue Devils.
McCall and Hammond improved to 7-2 overall with their win while Hemmeler and Semenzato moved to 3-2.
In the No. 1 doubles match, Tahir and Saba were leading the Eagles’ Daniil Gerasimov and William East, 4-3, when play was suspended.
Semenzato led Duke off the courts in singles, racing to a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Charles-Donatien at the No. 2 spot. A product of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Semenzato ended the day by moving his overall singles ledger to 14-5.
Hemmeler followed with a 6-1, 6-2 win over East on court four before Hammond clinched the match from the No. 6 position with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over the Eagles’ George.
Levine added a 6-1, 6-1 win in the No. 3 contest against Kienka and McCall defeated Persico on court five, 6-1, 6-1. Tahir closed out the 7-0 sweep with a 6-2, 6-2 decision over Gerasimov at the No. 1 spot.
“Josh Levine has been amazing,” Smith said. “He hasn’t lost a dual match ever. He got down 5-0 in the first set [against Kentucky] and just kind of willed himself to win. He competes unbelievably well.”
The Blue Devils return to the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center next weekend to host Oregon, North Carolina and San Diego State for ITA Kick-Off Weekend. Duke will face Oregon Saturday, Jan. 25 at 10 a.m. before the Aztecs and the Tar Heels square off at 1:30 p.m. The two advancing teams will meet Sunday, Jan. 26 at 4 p.m. to determine which squad advances to next month’s ITA National Team Indoor Championships while the consolation match is slated for 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
#9 Kentucky 4, #7 Duke 3
Jan 19, 2014 at Durham, N.C. (Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center)
1. Tom Jomby/Kevin Lai (UK) def. Fred Saba/Jason Tahir (DU) 6-1
2. Raphael Hemmeler/Bruno Semenzato (DU) def. Ryuji Hirooka/Beck Pennington (UK) 6-5 (7-5)
3. Daniel McCall/Cale Hammond (DU) def. Jerry Lopez/Alejandro Gomez (UK) 6-2
1. #68 Tom Jomby (UK) def. #52 Jason Tahir (DU) 6-3, 6-3
2. Fred Saba (DU) def. #55 Beck Pennington (UK) 6-5 (8-6), 4-6, 6-5 (7-5)
3. Alejandro Gomez (UK) def. #95 Bruno Semenzato (DU) 6-5 (8-6), 6-5 (7-4)
4. Jerry Lopez (UK) def. Raphael Hemmeler (DU) 6-5 (7-4), 6-1
5. #77 Josh Levine (DU) def. Grant Roberts (UK) 2-6, 6-3, 6-3
6. Ryuji Hirooka (UK) def. Daniel McCall (DU) 6-5 (7-2), 6-1
Kentucky 3-0; National ranking #9
Duke 0-2; National ranking #7
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (1,6,4,3,5,2)
#7 Duke 7, NC Central 0
Jan 19, 2014 at Durham, N.C. (Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center)
1. Jason Tahir/Fred Saba (DU) vs. Daniil Gerasimov/William East (NCCU) 4-3, unfinished
2. Bruno Semenzato/Raphael Hemmeler (DU) def. S. Charles-Donatien/Tamina Kienka (NCCU) 6-2
3. Daniel McCall/Cale Hammond (DU) def. Thomas Persico/Fabrice George (NCCU) 6-2
1. #52 Jason Tahir (DU) def. Daniil Gerasimov (NCCU) 6-2, 6-2
2. #95 Bruno Semenzato (DU) def. S. Charles-Donatien (NCCU) 6-0, 6-0
3. #77 Josh Levine (DU) def. Tamina Kienka (NCCU) 6-1, 6-1
4. Raphael Hemmeler (DU) def. William East (NCCU) 6-1, 6-2
5. Daniel McCall (DU) def. Thomas Persico (NCCU) 6-1, 6-1
6. Cale Hammond (DU) def. Fabrice George (NCCU) 6-3, 6-2
NC Central 0-2
Duke 1-2; National ranking #7
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (2,4,6,3,5,1)