CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - For the second straight season the Duke-North Carolina men's tennis match came down to a third set with the score tied at 3-3 only this season it was the Tar Heels coming away with the victory instead of the Blue Devils.
The two teams' top players squared off in the last remaining match. No. 6 Henrique Cunha of Duke and No. 25 Jose Hernandez of North Carolina each held serve for most of the match until Hernandez was able to break Cunha's serve at 5-4 for the victory.
"I told the team that if we were in this situation one hundred times I would want Cunha to be in there every single time and he is going to come through almost time," said head coach Ramsey Smith. "Hernandez played a great match and UNC played really well and outplayed us on a few points. They deserved to win."
It was the second time Cunha has played in a deciding match with the score tied at 3-3. He defeated No. 1 Steve Johnson of No. 3 Southern California in a second-set tiebreaker last season.
Duke fought hard to get back in the match after falling behind 2-0 when North Carolina won the doubles point and gained a quick win at the No. 2 singles spot.
Junior Luke Marchese had no problem at the No. 6 position as he defeated Alex Rafiee 6-0, 6-2 to cut the lead in half. Marchese is now 8-1 in the ACC this season and 14-6 overall.
Two Duke freshmen, Fred Saba and Chris Mengel, each won in straight sets to give Duke a 3-2 lead in the contest. Saba handled No. 90 Joey Burkhardt at the No. 4 spot 6-1, 6-4 for his third career win over a ranked opponent. Mengel trailed 5-1 in the first set but stormed back to win six straight games and take the first set on his way to a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Stefan Hardy. Mengel joins Marchese with an 8-1 ACC record while picking up his 27th win of the year.
"Chris is an unbelievable competitor and is never out of a match," said Smith. "He is a guy that hangs around, scraps, claws and competes so well. A player being down 5-1 is going to lose 99 percent of the time. We needed some momentum as we were getting beat in a few matches and him winning the first set was huge for us and gave us a chance. We just weren't able to win either of the three-set matches."
The first-set comeback for Mengel helped improve Duke's chances. On the upper tier courts, the Blue Devils were trailing 5-1 at both the No. 2 and 3 courts while the No. 1 match was on serve. Mengel would be one of three Duke players to win first sets keeping them in the hunt after losing the doubles point.
"I don't like to fall behind, that is for sure, but I did and saw the team was in trouble and knew I needed to focus and get back in the first set to gain some momentum," said Mengel. "I managed to keep coming back more and more and was able to win the first set. I focused a little more and moved my legs better and started putting a little more pressure on him."
No. 7 Reid Carleton and Cunha continued their impressive season in doubles with an 8-3 victory to improve to 31-4 overall and 7-1 in conference play.
The Blue Devils are now 16-8 overall and 7-2 in the ACC. North Carolina improved to 12-6 on the season and 7-2 in league play. The Tar Heels extend the lead in the Continental Tire Cup Battle of the Blues rivalry series to 11-9 with the men's tennis win. Duke will wrap up the regular season this weekend with home matches against Florida State on Friday at 3 p.m. and Miami on Sunday at 12 noon.
Tennis Match Results
Duke vs North Carolina
Apr. 13, 2011 at Chapel Hill, N.C.
#19 North Carolina 4, #10 Duke 3
1. #7 Reid Carleton/Henrique Cunha (Duke) def. Joey Burkhardt/Stefan Hardy (UNC) 8-3
2. Cameron Ahari/Brennan Boyajian (UNC) def. David Holland/Chris Mengel (Duke) 8-5
3. Jose Hernandez/Zach Hunter (UNC) def. Cale Hammond/Torsten Wietoska (Duke) 8-3
1. #25 Jose Hernandez (UNC) def. #6 Henrique Cunha (Duke) 7-5, 2-6, 6-4
2. Brennan Boyajian (UNC) def. #9 Reid Carleton (Duke) 6-1, 6-1
3. Chris Mengel (Duke) def. Stefan Hardy (UNC) 7-5, 6-2
4. Fred Saba (Duke) def. #90 Joey Burkhardt (UNC) 6-1, 6-4
5. William Parker (UNC) def. Torsten Wietoska (Duke) 6-2, 3-6, 6-4
6. Luke Marchese (Duke) def. Alex Rafiee (UNC) 6-0, 6-2
Duke 16-8, 7-2 ACC; National ranking #10
North Carolina 12-6, 7-2 ACC; National ranking #19
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (2,6,4,3,5,1)