CARY, N.C. – Despite rallying from a dropped doubles point twice this season to defeat rival North Carolina, the 11th-ranked Duke men’s tennis team was unable to complete the comeback again Saturday, falling to the Tar Heels, 4-1, in the ACC Championship semifinals. The Blue Devils surrendered a match for the first time since March 23, falling to 19-6 for the season.
“I just want to congratulate North Carolina,” said head coach Ramsey Smith. “They won a really tightly-contested doubles point and they played well in singles. We fought really hard and we had our chances. We were up in the last two matches that we didn’t get to finish ... It was a good match and congrats to UNC.”
Ninth-ranked North Carolina (24-4) took the doubles point from Duke for the third time in as many meetings this spring. The Tar Heels’ 35th-ranked pair of Brayden Schnur and Brett Clark handed the 52nd-ranked tandem of senior Fred Saba and junior Raphael Hemmeler an 8-2 loss on court one before sophomore Bruno Semenzato and redshirt junior Cale Hammond countered with an 8-6 defeat of Jack Murray and Ronnie Schneider at the No. 3 spot. With the win, Semenzato and Hammond improved to 4-1 on the spring.
The Blue Devils once again faced the tough task of earning four wins in singles, but it was the Tar Heels who grabbed momentum early. No. 73 Clark gave North Carolina a 2-0 advantage in the match, dispatching Hemmeler by scores of 6-3, 6-4 at the No. 3 position.
Semenzato, the 92nd-ranked player in the ITA singles poll, won in straight sets on court four to put Duke on the board. He broke Steiro’s serve at 4-3 in the first set and took the second set by a 6-2 margin for his 31st victory of the year and 17th from the No. 4 position.
Although 36th-ranked Saba claimed both No. 2 singles matches against Schneider during the regular season, it was 35th-ranked Schneider who came out on top Saturday, 6-4, 6-2. That decision put the Tar Heels within one point of clinching at 3-1. Vick of North Carolina sealed the semifinal victory on court six, defeating freshman TJ Pura, 7-6 (5), 6-3. The loss was Pura’s first in dual match play of his collegiate career, as the Duke rookie had won 14 consecutive contests coming into the day.
“We’ve been in that position twice before and we were able to come through,” Smith said. “Against a really good team like UNC that’s a really tough task to ask for. We gave ourselves a shot and we fought until the end, and that’s all I can ask for.”
The Blue Devils led on the remaining courts, as 30th-ranked Tahir took the first set from No. 12 Schnur, 7-5, and was rallying in the second set. On court five, Levine and the Tar Heels’ Murray had split the first two sets and Levine was up 3-1 in the third when play was suspended.
Duke will now await the selections for the 2014 NCAA Championship field, which will be announced Tuesday, Apr. 29 at 5 p.m. on NCAA.com.
#9 North Carolina 4, #11 Duke 1
Apr 26, 2014 at Cary, NC (Cary Tennis Park)
1. #35 Brayden Schnur/Brett Clark (NC) def. #52 Fred Saba/Raphael Hemmeler (DU) 8-2
2. Oystein Steiro/Nelson Vick (NC) def. Jason Tahir/Josh Levine (DU) 8-7 (7-5)
3. Bruno Semenzato/Cale Hammond (DU) def. Jack Murray/Ronnie Schneider (NC) 8-6
1. #12 Brayden Schnur (NC) vs. #30 Jason Tahir (DU) 5-7, 5-3, unfinished
2. #35 Ronnie Schneider (NC) def. #36 Fred Saba (DU) 6-4, 6-2
3. #73 Brett Clark (NC) def. Raphael Hemmeler (DU) 6-3, 6-4
4. #92 Bruno Semenzato (DU) def. Oystein Steiro (NC) 6-3, 6-2
5. Jack Murray (NC) vs. Josh Levine (DU) 5-7, 6-1, 1-3, unfinished
6. Nelson Vick (NC) def. TJ Pura (DU) 7-6 (7-5), 6-3
Duke 19-6; National ranking #11
North Carolina 24-4; National ranking #9
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (3,4,2,6)