"We knew it was going to be a tough match," said head coach Ramsey Smith. "None of us have played for about three weeks now, so it was really important to set the tone for the tournament and come out and start things off the right way."
Duke (23-5) got off to a strong start in doubles play, with senior Torsten Wietoska and freshman Raphael Hemmeler dispatching the Colonials' Mike Kachkar and Richard Blumenfeld by an 8-2 score in the No. 3 slot. The victory moved the Blue Devil duo to 13-5 overall and 3-1 in postseason doubles play.
The 16th-ranked tandem of junior Henrique Cunha and sophomore Chris Mengel secured the doubles point for Duke, cruising to an 8-0 victory over George Washington's Alexander van Gils and Ulrik Thomsen at the No. 1 position. Cunha and Mengel improved to 17-8 on the season and 10-4 at the No. 1 spot with the win. On court two, senior David Holland and sophomore Fred Saba rallied from an early 3-1 deficit to lead Francisco Dias and Ugur Atalay, 5-3, when the match was abandoned.
The Blue Devils carried the momentum over into singles action, sweeping the first sets on all six courts. Hemmeler led the squad off the courts, posting a 6-1, 6-1 win against Viktor Svensson in the No. 5 contest. The rookie is now 24-11 on the season and 14-2 from the No. 5 position after earning the first NCAA Championship singles victory of his collegiate career.
Fellow freshman Jason Tahir extended Duke's lead to 3-0 in the match with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Blumenfeld on court six. Tahir also picked up his first NCAA Championship singles win while improving to 25-8 overall and 12-2 at the No. 6 position.
"Hemmeler and Tahir continue to impress throughout the year," Smith said. "For their first tournament, to be getting off quickly and playing very well is certainly a good start for them."
Fifth-ranked Cunha then clinched his team-leading seventh match of the season, defeating the Colonials' Dias, 6-4, 6-0, in the No. 1 singles contest. The win moved Cunha to 36-8 overall this season and 22-4 at the top spot in the lineup. The Duke junior also pushed his career singles record in NCAA Championship matches to 5-1.
George Washington concluded its season with a final record of 17-8.
LSU earned a spot in Sunday's second round with a 4-0 victory over Northwestern in Saturday's earlier match. Duke and LSU will meet Sunday at 2 p.m. to compete for a trip to the NCAA Round of 16 in Athens, Ga.
"LSU is a tough SEC team," Smith said. "They're very dangerous. They've had some big wins, and we need to be ready to go. We respect them a lot and they played a very good match today against Northwestern. We're going to need to have our 'A' game tomorrow."
#8 Duke 4, George Washington 0
NCAA Div. I Men's Tennis Championship - First Round
May 12, 2012 at Durham, N.C.
(Ambler Tennis Stadium)
1. #16 Henrique Cunha/Chris Mengel (DU) def. Alexander van Gils/Ulrik Thomsen (GW) 8-0
2. David Holland/Fred Saba (DU) vs. Francisco Dias/Ugur Atalay (GW) 5-3, unfinished
3. Raphael Hemmeler/Torsten Wietoska (DU) def. Mike Kachkar/Richard Blumenfeld (GW) 8-2
1. #5 Henrique Cunha (DU) def. Francisco Dias (GW) 6-4, 6-0
2. #38 Chris Mengel (DU) vs. Ugur Atalay (GW) 6-4, 2-2, unfinished
3. #113 Torsten Wietoska (DU) vs. Alexander van Gils (GW) 6-3, 3-2, unfinished
4. Fred Saba (DU) vs. Leonardo Lapentti (GW) 6-0, 2-5, unfinished
5. Raphael Hemmeler (DU) def. Viktor Svensson (GW) 6-1, 6-1
6. Jason Tahir (DU) def. Richard Blumenfeld (GW) 6-2, 6-3
George Washington 17-8
Duke 23-5; National ranking #8
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (5,6,1)