ATHENS, Ga. - Freshman Henrique Cunha advanced to the second round of the NCAA Individual Singles Championships and tied a single season wins record at Duke with a straight-set victory on Wednesday.
Cunha, the top seed in the tournament and No. 2 player in the ITA singles rankings, defeated No. 18 Pedro Zerbini of California 6-3, 6-1. The win was the 36th of the season for Cunha as he improves to 36-5 overall and has a 21-match winning streak.
"I served real well and I think that was the key in the beginning of the match to keep holding my serve," said Cunha. "I was real nervous at the beginning, but I served well at important moments and then started playing well the rest of the way."
After three close games to start the match, Cunha broke Zerbini's serve to take a 3-1 lead. The first-year Duke player then held serve to go up 4-1. After the two exchanged games, Cunha served out the first set at 6-3. In the second set, Cunha didn't wast much time, getting a break at 1-1. He rattled off the last five games of the set to close out the match and advance.
With the win Cunha moves into a tie for the most singles wins in a single season by a Duke player, equalling the total previously set by Ludovic Walter (36-9, 2003-04) and Andres Pedroso (36-13, 2000-01). The win moved him past his current head coach Ramsey Smith on the single season wins list.
"He (Ramsey Smith) was joking with me a little before the match saying 'oh you are going to break my record today'," said Cunha. "I am proud of setting the freshman record and now I can try to break the overall record tomorrow."
The last Duke player to win a singles match in the NCAA Individual Championships was Walter in 2006. Walter advanced to the round of 16 that season with two victories.
The second round matches will take place on Thursday at 10 a.m. with Cunha to face No. 37 Gonzalo Escobar of Texas Tech. The first round of the doubles will also be played on Thursday with the top seed Cunha and Reid Carleton taking on No. 15 Moritz Baumann and Marek Michalicka of Wisconsin at 4 p.m.