STANFORD, Calif. - Sophomore Henrique Cunha rallied back from a first set loss to win in three sets in singles and also teamed with Reid Carleton for a straight set victory in doubles on Friday in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships at Stanford, Calif.
Cunha matched up with No. 15 Dennis Nevolo from Illinois in the round of 16 for singles. Nevolo got an early break in the first set and would hold on to that advantage the rest of the way to take the set 6-4. He got off to a strong start in the second as well with a break on Cunha's opening serve but the second-year Duke player did not get rattled and broke right back on the next game. The second set stayed on serve until Cunha took a 5-3 lead with a break. He then served out the set to send the match into a deciding set.
In the third set, Cunha started to hit his stride and with the help of two breaks would take a commanding 5-1 lead. After Nevolo made it 5-2, he got to break point but Cunha hit three straight unreturnable serves, including two aces, to close out the match. It is just the fifth time in school history a Duke player has reached the quarterfinals in singles with Cunha and Phillip King each making it twice and Chris Pressley once. Cunha improves to 37-9 on the year with 22 of his wins against ranked opponents.
"I think in the first set, [Nevolo] played really well," said Cunha. "He was really aggressive and the key for me was to stay mentally strong and start being more aggressive in the second and third sets, and if I could serve well, that was the key today."
Cunha will now face No. 5 Michael Shabaz from Virginia in the quarterfinals. Shabaz won in straight sets in the round of 16 against No. 16 Austen Childs of Louisville. It will be the third time this season and sixth time in the last two years the two have met. Cunha is 3-1 in the previous five meetings with the match in last year's team NCAA Tournament round of 16 match going unfinished. He won the regular season dual match this year 7-6, 6-3 but lost in the ACC Tournament 7-5, 6-1.
Later in the day Carleton and Cunha were firing on all cylinders in their round of 16 doubles match. The two Blue Devils faced a top 10 doubles team for the second straight day with a contest against No. 9 Ed Corrie and Jean Andersen of Texas. The return game has been one of the strengths for Carleton and Cunha all year long and helped lead to breaks on five of the Longhorns' eight service games. The Duke pair cruised to a 6-2, 6-2 victory to advance to the quarterfinals for the second straight season.
Carleton and Cunha improve to 38-6 for the season with their 15th victory over a ranked opponent. Next up in the quarterfinals will be No. 14 Kevin King and Juan Spir of Georgia Tech, who knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation and top seed in the tournament from Tennessee on Friday. It will be the third meeting this year between the Duke and Georgia Tech doubles squads. The Yellow Jackets duo won 8-5 in the quarterfinals of the ITA National Indoor Championships in November while the two Blue Devils won during conference play, 8-6.
All matches will take place at the Taube Tennis Center on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. Live scoring is available at http://www.streamingtennis.com/Cardinal/livescoreboard1.html.