DURHAM, N.C. – The ninth-seeded Duke men’s tennis team advanced to the 2013 NCAA Team Championships, following a 4-0 sweep to UNC Wilmington Saturday afternoon. Following two rain delays, play was moved indoors to the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center for the conclusion of the match. The Blue Devils improve to 24-5 on the season, while UNCW concludes its campaign with a 19-5 mark.
“Today, we did a great job of finishing the job,” said head coach Ramsey Smith. “Guys that were up finished the deal in singles and in doubles. I am really proud of Bruno [Semenzato] and Josh [Levine], two guys that haven’t played a whole lot this year. Their name was called and Bruno helped clinch the doubles point and Josh clinched the match.”
The Blue Devils were able to edge the Seahawks for the doubles point with wins at the No. 1 and 3 positions. At the top spot of the lineup, senior Henrique Cunha and sophomore Raphael Hemmeler stayed on serve against Chris Cooprider and Kosta Blank until the Duke duo won the first break of the match at 4-2. The dynamic Duke duo won a second break four games later to take a 7-3 advantage, before Hemmeler held serve to close out the match, 8-3. Cunha and Hemmeler now sit four matches back of the single season wins record for a duo in Duke men’s tennis history.
The Seahawks were able to win the match on court two, as No. 52 Rafael Aita and Sam Wiiliams defeated Duke’s Michael Redlicki and Jason Tahir, 8-5. The UNCW tandem claimed an early break to take a 2-0 advantage that they never relinquished.
The match at the No. 3 position between Duke’s tandem of Fred Saba and Bruno Semenzato and UNCW’s Santtu Leskinen and Kaue Pereira stayed on serve before Saba and Semenzato took a 3-2 advantage. The Seahawks came back two games later and brought the match back to serve at 4-4. With the opening point on the line Saba and Semenzato came up huge with a break to take a 7-6 advantage, before Saba held serve to close out the match and the opening point for Duke.
After an hour of singles action, rain began to drench the courts at Ambler Tennis Stadium, forcing a one-hour rain delay. The Blue Devils were able to respond well by winning two matches and going to the final game in the decisive match.
“We handled the rain delays really well,” Smith said. “The goal is to handle it better than them. It was a time where it could have been a turning point for them, because we were doing well at quite a few spots in singles.”
Raphael Hemmeler extended Duke’s lead to 2-0 following a 6-0, 7-5 win over Pereira at the fourth spot in the lineup. The sophomore quickly won the first game, 6-0, and was up 3-2 when play was stopped due to rain. Following the delay, Hemmeler captured a break to take a 4-2 lead, before Pereira responded with a break of his own at 4-3. The players traded games, before the Duke sophomore was able to win the final break for the 6-0, 7-5 win. The win for Hemmeler is his team leading 33rd victory of the season.
“I am overall really happy with the way I played today,” said Hemmeler. “I don’t think the rain delay really affected me too much. We came out and broke each other when we started back.”
At the No. 5 position, Tahir was able to win a quick break to take a 2-0 advantage and cruised in the first set, 6-1, over Blank. Following the rain delay, Tahir and Blank traded games before the Duke sophomore broke Blank and took a 2-1 advantage in the second frame. In the midst of the skies opening for the second time during the afternoon, Tahir gave Duke a commanding 3-0 lead with a 6-1, 6-1 win. A product of Rochester, N.Y., Tahir owns a 29-4 mark on the year.
A native of Syosset, N.Y., freshman Josh Levine sent the Blue Devils to the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive season with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Zach Hublitz. After trading breaks early in the match, Levine took control of the first set with a break at 3-2. After the first rain delay, the rookie quickly broke Hublitz to take a 2-0 lead in the second set. Only two points from victory, Levine was forced to conclude his match indoors following the second rain delay of the day, where the rookie was able to close out the match with his first career postseason win.
“I competed well,” Levine stated. “Ramsey told me to just keep competing and you will find a way. I thought I served well today. That helped me win some big points.”
At the top position, No. 9 Cunha won the first set and was up a break in the second set over Aita, before the match was abandoned, 6-4, 3-1. At the No. 3 position, Redlicki and Williams were headed to a decisive third set, before the match was left unfinished, 4-6, 6-1. At the second position, Saba dropped the first set to Cooprider, but led in the second before the match was left unfinished, 1-6, 4-3.
Duke has now won two matches in NCAA Championship play for the 15th time in school history and owns an all-time record of 43-22 in 23 NCAA Championship appearances. Up next, the Blue Devils will face eighth-seeded Kentucky in the round of 16 on Thursday, May 16 at 8 p.m. ET.
Tennis Match Results
UNCW vs Duke
May 10, 2013 at Durham, N.C.
(Ambler Tennis Stadium)
#9 Duke 4, #53 UNCW 0
1. #9 Henrique Cunha (DU) vs. #54 Rafael Aita (UNCW) 6-4, 3-1, unfinished
2. #43 Fred Saba (DU) vs. Chris Cooprider (UNCW) 1-6, 4-3, unfinished
3. #46 Michael Redlicki (DU) vs. Sam Williams (UNCW) 4-6, 6-1, unfinished
4. #74 Raphael Hemmeler (DU) def. Kaue Pereira (UNCW) 6-0, 7-5
5. Jason Tahir (DU) def. Kosta Blank (UNCW) 6-1, 6-1
6. Josh Levine (DU) def. Zach Hublitz (UNCW) 6-3, 6-2
1. #2 Henrique Cunha/Raphael Hemmeler (DU) def. #30 Chris Cooprider/Kosta Blank (UNCW) 8-3
2. #52 Rafael Aita/Sam Williams (UNCW) def. #19 Jason Tahir/Michael Redlicki (DU) 8-5
3. Fred Saba/Bruno Semenzato (DU) def. Santtu Leskinen/Kaue Pereira (UNCW) 8-6
UNCW 19-5; National ranking #53
Duke 24-5; National ranking #9
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (4,5,6)
NCAA Team Championships Second Round
Play will be moved indoors to Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center.
A-252 Match Time: 4:30