DURHAM, N.C. – The 17th-ranked Duke men’s tennis team secured a trip to the 2014 ITA National Team Indoor Championships in thrilling fashion Sunday, dispatching No. 42 North Carolina, 4-2, in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend championship match in Durham.
The Blue Devils (3-2) rallied after dropping the doubles point to claim four singles wins in the early-season meeting with their Tobacco Road Rivals.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the guys,” said head coach Ramsey Smith. “They showed me a lot, especially in singles, just with the passion, effort and competing … The biggest thing was we played to win and we really took it to UNC, which was the difference, especially on the big points.”
Trailing 1-0 in the match heading into singles play, Duke claimed first sets on five courts and evened the score on a quick 6-0, 6-4 victory by junior Raphael Hemmeler from the No. 6 position. The win was Hemmeler’s second of the weekend in singles, giving him a 6-5 ledger for the year. The Tar Heels countered with a straight-set victory on court five, as sophomore Josh Levine surrendered a 6-1, 6-3 decision to Nelson Vick for just his first dual match singles loss of the season.
Junior Jason Tahir, the 52nd-ranked player in the ITA singles poll, toppled No. 36 Brett Clark of North Carolina in the No. 3 contest, 6-3, 6-2. The Rochester, N.Y., native picked up his second win over a ranked opponent this year and improved to 8-4 overall.
Sophomore Bruno Semenzato gave the Blue Devils a 3-2 advantage in the match, defeating Oystein Steiro from the No. 4 spot in the lineup, 6-3, 6-3. The victory extended Semenzato’s win streak to three matches and moved his singles season record to 16-5 with a 4-1 mark in dual match play.
With the decision down to a pair of key matchups on courts one and two, senior Fred Saba was able to close out first on court two with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 17 Ronnie Schneider of North Carolina. Saba fell behind in the second set after allowing Schneider to break back at 2-all but battled to break serve at 4-4 en route to the clinching straight-set victory.
“I decided to make a commitment to play my style of game on the bigger points and decided to challenge myself to play the best point possible,” Saba said. “We showed a ton of resilience out there, losing the doubles point and then winning four singles matches against what I consider one of the best singles squads in the country.”
Twenty-ninth ranked Michael Redlicki utilized a strong serve to power his way to a 6-5 (2) tiebreak win in the first set against Brayden Schnur at No. 1 singles, but dropped the second set, 6-4. A third set was just underway there when play was suspended.
Matches were tight across the three courts in doubles, with the Tar Heels’ Schneider and Jack Murray topping redshirt junior Cale Hammond and Saba in the No. 3 slot, 6-3. Duke’s No. 1 doubles duo of Redlicki and Tahir was leading 1-0 against Clark and Schnur in the tiebreak there when North Carolina’s 50th-ranked pair of Steiro and Vick sealed the point with a 6-3 win over Semenzato and Hemmeler on court two.
“It’s been a tough start to the season,” Smith said. “We faced some pretty big adversity early. To rebound with a win like this, especially after losing the doubles point, against a UNC team that I think is a top-10 team in the country … I knew we had the ability and I feel like we just put it together.”
The two ITA Kick-Off Weekend wins give the Blue Devils their fourth consecutive trip to the ITA National Team Indoors tournament, which is slated for Feb. 14-17 in Houston, Texas. Duke will also be back in Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center next weekend, hosting Illinois Friday, Jan. 31 at 6 p.m.
#17 Duke 4, #42 North Carolina 2
Jan 26, 2014 at Durham, N.C. (Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center)
1. Michael Redlicki/Jason Tahir (DU) vs. Brett Clark/Brayden Schnur (UNC) 5-5 (1-0), unfinished
2. #50 Oystein Steiro/Nelson Vick (UNC) def. Bruno Semenzato/Raphael Hemmeler (DU) 6-3
3. Ronnie Schneider/Jack Murray (UNC) def. Cale Hammond/Fred Saba (DU) 6-3
1. #29 Michael Redlicki (DU) vs. Brayden Schnur (UNC) 6-5 (7-2), 4-6, 1-0, unfinished
2. Fred Saba (DU) def. #17 Ronnie Schneider (UNC) 6-4, 6-4
3. #52 Jason Tahir (DU) def. #36 Brett Clark (UNC) 6-3, 6-2
4. #95 Bruno Semenzato (DU) def. Oystein Steiro (UNC) 6-3, 6-3
5. Nelson Vick (UNC) def. #77 Josh Levine (DU) 6-1, 6-3
6. Raphael Hemmeler (DU) def. Jack Murray (UNC) 6-0, 6-4
North Carolina 5-1; National ranking #42
Duke 3-2; National ranking #17
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (6,5,3,4,2)
ITA Kick-Off Championship - Duke advances to ITA National Team Indoors