DURHAM, N.C. – Trailing 1-0 after doubles play, the 11th-seeded Duke men’s tennis team rallied in singles but ultimately fell to 20th-ranked Tennessee, 4-2, Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Team Championship at Ambler Tennis Stadium.
The Blue Devils conclude the 2014 campaign with a final record of 20-7.
“We knew it was going to be a really tough match,” said head coach Ramsey Smith. “We played them earlier in this year and it was a battle and came down to a couple of points in the end. Tennessee is a really good team. Overall I thought we fought extremely well.”
The Volunteers captured a tightly-contested doubles point with wins on courts one and two. In the first contest to finish on court two, junior Jason Tahir and sophomore Josh Levine remained on serve against Tennessee’s Jarryd Chaplin and Andrew Dromsky before the Volunteers won the tiebreak, 7-5.
The tandem of sophomore Bruno Semenzato and redshirt junior Cale Hammond were leading the Volunteers’ Brandon Fickey and Bartosz Sawicki by a 7-5 score on court three, but Tennessee was able to close out the No. 1 match first to claim the point. Despite playing to break point late in the set, the 51st-ranked duo of senior Fred Saba and junior Raphael Hemmeler fell to the nation’s second-ranked pair of Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese, 8-5.
Chaplin extended the Volunteers’ lead to 2-0 in the match early in singles, handing Hemmeler a 6-3, 6-3 loss on court three. Semenzato, the 89th-ranked player in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association singles poll, responded by dispatching Fickey in straight sets at the No. 4 slot, 6-1, 7-5. Semenzato collected his fourth consecutive victory in the process, moving his season ledger to 32-9.
Levine was then able to knot the match at 2-all, delivering a three-set win from the No. 5 position. He took the first set from Dromsky, 6-4, and rebounded from a dropped second set to capture the decisive set, 6-3. The Blue Devil sophomore improved to 32-8 for the season and 12-4 at the No. 5 spot in the lineup.
Tennessee regained the lead as Sawicki topped freshman TJ Pura in three sets on court six, bringing the match down to a pair of three-set decisions on courts one and two. In a battle of top-35 players on court one, No. 32 Tahir and No. 27 Reese were on serve midway through the decisive set after Tahir claimed the first set and Reese the second. Meanwhile, 44th-ranked Saba bounced back strong after surrendering his first set to 34th-ranked Libietis in the No. 2 matchup, winning a second set tiebreak by a 7-4 score. However, Libietis capitalized late in the third set to clinch the 4-2 victory for the Volunteers, sending his squad to the NCAA round of 16.
“We really got a lot tougher as the season’s gone on, particularly these last two months,” Smith said. “We fought through a lot of really tough situations and we won a lot of really close matches. Unfortunately we didn’t get this one, but we gave ourselves a shot. Overall, I feel really good about this team and I feel like we made a whole lot of progress from the beginning of the year.”
Saba and Tahir will travel to Athens, Ga., to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship May 21-26.
#20 Tennessee 4, #11 Duke 2
May 11, 2014 at Durham, N.C. (Ambler Tennis Stadium)
1. #2 Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (UT) def. #51 Fred Saba/Raphael Hemmeler (DU) 8-5
2. Jarryd Chaplin/Andrew Dromsky (UT) def. Jason Tahir/Josh Levine (DU) 8-7 (7-5)
3. Bruno Semenzato/Cale Hammond (DU) vs. Brandon Fickey/Bartosz Sawicki (UT) 7-5, unfinished
1. #32 Jason Tahir (DU) vs. #27 Hunter Reese (UT) 6-4, 3-6, 3-4, unfinished
2. #34 Mikelis Libietis (UT) def. #44 Fred Saba (DU) 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
3. Jarryd Chaplin (UT) def. Raphael Hemmeler (DU) 6-3, 6-3
4. #89 Bruno Semenzato (DU) def. Brandon Fickey (UT) 6-1, 7-5
5. Josh Levine (DU) def. Andrew Dromsky (UT) 6-4, 2-6, 6-3
6. Bartosz Sawicki (UT) def. TJ Pura (DU) 6-2, 2-6, 6-0
Tennessee 19-10; National ranking #20
Duke 20-7; National ranking #11
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (3,4,5,6,2)
NCAA Second Round