DURHAM, N.C. – The eighth-ranked Duke men’s tennis team will begin its Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) regular season schedule with a pair of matches this weekend. The Blue Devils will host their first outdoor dual match at Ambler Tennis Stadium against No. 24 Wake Forest Friday, March 15 at 1 p.m., before making the short drive to Chapel Hill, N.C., to face the 57th-ranked Tar Heels Sunday, March 17 at 1 p.m.
“We are looking forward to kicking off our ACC schedule this weekend against Wake and UNC,” said head coach Ramsey Smith. “We are coming off a tough loss at Cal but our team takes pride in bouncing back strong after losses, and we have done that very well the last two years.”
The Blue Devils are coming off a hard-fought 4-3 loss Sunday to then-No. 24 Cal Sunday in Berkeley, Calif. In the match, Duke lost the doubles point for just the second time this season. Sophomore Raphael Hemmeler and classmate Jason Tahir picked up wins from the No. 5 and No. 6 positions in the singles lineup, respectively. At the No. 1 spot in the lineup, senior Henrique Cunha captured a 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 56 Ben McLachlin.
Cunha and Hemmeler reclaimed the top spot in the most recent ITA doubles rankings. The duo spent four weeks as the top-ranked pair in the country to open the spring slate. Duke is the lone school in the nation to boast three doubles tandems in the top-25, as freshman Michael Redlicki and Jason Tahir are listed ninth and the junior duo of Chris Mengel and Fred Saba come in at 25th.
In singles, the Blue Devils boast three players in the top-30, as Cunha is listed 10th, Redlicki is ranked 26th and Saba is listed 27th. In addition, Hemmeler is ranked 55th, while Mengel is listed at 89th.
Wake Forest comes to Durham ranked 24th in the latest ITA rankings and owns an 11-4 ledger for the season after falling to VCU, 4-2, Tuesday in Richmond, Va. The team is led by senior Amogh Prabhakar who is the lone ranked player in singles listed at 56th, while the duo of Prabhakar and David Hopkins are the squad’s only ranked doubles pair at 70th. Friday will mark the 96th all-time meeting between Duke and Wake Forest, with the Blue Devils holding an 81-14 series advantage. Duke has defeated the Demon Deacons in each of the previous five match-ups, including a 6-1 victory last season on March 18, 2012 in Winston Salem, N.C.
After dropping four consecutive matches, North Carolina enters the weekend with a 7-6 overall record and is ranked 57th in the latest poll. Prior to playing the Blue Devils on Sunday, the Tar Heels will face NC State Friday in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heel lineup features four ranked players in singles, led by 35th-ranked Esben Hess-Olesen. Other Tar Heels in the singles rankings include No. 104 Brett Clark, No. 113 Nelson Vick and No. 114 Oystein Steiro. Sunday’s matchup will be the 122nd all-time matchup between the two schools, as North Carolina leads the series 84-37. Duke won the last meeting in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament in Cary, N.C., a 4-2 victory on April 21, 2012.