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Men's Tennis mm
 
Henrique Cunha and Raphael Hemmeler
Courtesy: Duke Photography/Whitney Hills
Henrique Cunha and Raphael Hemmeler
Catching Up With Henrique Cunha and Raphael Hemmeler
Saturday 03/13/2013  -  Duke Sports Information
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DURHAM, N.C. – Ranked as the top-ranked doubles tandem in the country, senior Henrique Cunha and sophomore Raphael Hemmeler of the eighth-ranked Duke men’s tennis team have enjoyed much success playing together on the tennis court this season. The duo concluded the fall season by capturing the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championship and enjoyed a 16-match win streak earlier this season. The duo was teamed together when Cunha became the all-time leader in doubles victories in program history, earlier in the dual season. Recently, GoDuke.com was able to sit down with the dynamic pair to ask about their success on and off the court. Cunha, a native of Jaú, Brazil, and Hemmeler, a product of Zurich, Switzerland, talk about life back home in their respective countries.

GoDuke.com: You recently claimed the all-time doubles wins record earlier this season. What does that record mean to you?
Henrique Cunha:
I think it is important, but it is only numbers. I prefer to stay focused on the team, winning a lot of matches and helping the team. That makes me feel good about the record.

GoDuke.com: What does it mean to you [Raphael Hemmeler] to be able to be a part of the tandem that clinched Cunha’s doubles record?
Raphael Hemmeler:
I think it is awesome for Cunha. Obviously, he’s one of the best players to ever come through the program. I am just happy to be able to play with him.

GoDuke.com: As one of the top-ranked tandems in the nation, what makes the two of you so successful playing together?
HC:
Our chemistry, we are friends off the court. On the courts, I think we return very well, Rafa [Hemmeler] is very good at it. I think it has mostly to do with our chemistry on and off the court.

GoDuke.com: Why is it so important to have good chemistry with your playing partner in doubles?
RH:
It really is important to have good chemistry, especially in close matches. I know what Henrique is going to do on the court; he knows what I am going to do on the court. We are just trying to have fun and enjoy playing with each other. That is the key to our success.

GoDuke.com: Both of you have come to Duke from foreign countries. Does that add to the bond and the chemistry the two of you share?
RH:
I think it helps me understand him [Cunha] a little better in certain situations as players who come from foreign countries. We are both away from our families; we are in a different culture as well. I don’t know if we have a special bond because of that, but it definitely helps.

GoDuke.com: What is your favorite part of playing with each other?
HC:
We have fun playing together. He makes me laugh during the match, so there is not much pressure at all to play with him and that makes it fun.

GoDuke.com: What is the biggest difference culturally that you had to get used to moving to the United States?
RH:
I would say the people in the United States are more open. They are really outgoing, even if they are just getting to know you. They always want to have conversation. In Switzerland, you have to get to know people a little more before they will have a longer conversation. One thing I really appreciate in the United States is people are really interested and they want to help you if you have problems.

HC:
I think here in the United States, people appreciate college sports more than in Brazil. We don’t have anything like that in Brazil, that is a major difference that I have experienced here. In Brazil, we care about soccer but the other sports are not recognized like they are here.

GoDuke.com: What is one activity that you enjoy in your native country that you miss taking part in?
RH:
Skiing. I guess I could ski in the States, but I love skiing. I ski in the Alps of Switzerland often, whenever I am home. I started when I was pretty young, maybe six or seven. I started playing soccer, tennis and skiing at a pretty early age.

HC: In Brazil, I like to hang out with my friends because I don’t get to see them that often. I really love to play soccer and swim. I enjoy playing all kinds of sports whenever I am home.

GoDuke.com: What is your favorite food native to Switzerland?
RH:
That is definitely fondue. That is typical Swiss food. I know four Swiss people on campus. We get together and have fondue whenever we can.

HC: It is called Brazilian BBQ. It is grilled steak, usually with a salad, rice and beans. The steak is a type of Brazilian steak that we make.

-d-u-k-e-


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