DURHAM, N.C. – For the second time in three years, the Duke men’s tennis team is starting its spring campaign with a trip to Honolulu, Hawai’i. The Blue Devils will take part in three contests, facing Hawai’i, Ole Miss and LSU on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Our entire program is incredibly excited to kick off the spring season with our Hills Family Winter Hawai’i trip,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “Jane and Greg have been such an immense part of Duke Tennis. We are extremely grateful for this privilege.”
The squad departed for Honolulu from Los Angeles on Saturday and practiced Sunday at the University of Hawai’i. The Blue Devils will be facing opponents from the host Rainbow Warriors at 8 p.m. ET Monday before going up against foes representing Ole Miss at 2 p.m. Tuesday and LSU at 2 p.m. Wednesday. All three days will consist of two rounds of doubles followed by one round of singles. These are not dual matches and the results will not be counted toward the team’s overall results for the spring season.
Duke heads into this week’s action returning five of its top six from last year. Leading the way is junior Nicolas Alvarez, who begins the year ranked No. 10 in the Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) poll. Alvarez closed the fall with a 9-4 mark and the consolation bracket championship at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship. Alvarez won his final four matches of the fall and went 3-4 versus ranked foes. Sophomore Catalin Mateas, last year’s No. 2 player, posted a 9-4 record this fall while a pair of freshmen in Robert Levine and Nick Stachowiak led the Blue Devils in fall singles victories with 11 each. Levine captured his last five matches and won the singles title at the Dick Vitale Intercollegiate Clay Court Classic to end his fall.
Hawai’i returns its top player from a year ago in junior Felix Albert, who went 2-10 in dual matches, all from the No. 1 position. Sophomore Igor Kolaric filled the No. 2 position for much of last spring, going 0-6 there and 2-12 overall in dual action.
This fall, Ole Miss was led in victories by freshman Tim Sandkaulen, who went 9-6. Sandkaulen cracks the Oracle/ITA poll at No. 83. Junior Gustav Hansson was right behind at 7-3, including a 2-3 mark versus ranked opponents. Hansson, the No. 14 player in the Oracle/ITA ledger, was selected as an All-American following the 2015-16 campaign. He was tabbed the ITA Southern Region Player to Watch at the end of the 2016 season. Sophomore Filip Kraljevic, who excelled in doubles last spring, closed the fall strong in singles with an 8-4 record and 7-3 record during his last 10 matches.
LSU was paced in the fall by sophomore Nikola Samardzic’s 9-3 record. Samardzic ended the 2015-16 season with an 8-7 singles ledger, playing primarily on courts four, five and six. Freshman Agie Moreno also finished above the .500 mark at 5-3.
Away from practices, the team already this week has spent an afternoon at Waikiki Beach and visited the Hula Grill and Duke’s Restaurant.
“During this week in paradise we will have the opportunity to train hard, compete against two SEC teams and Hawai’i, and most importantly solidify a team bond and chemistry that will help us reach our goals thought the spring season,” Smith explained.
After this week’s matches, Duke will visit Kailua, about a 15 mile drive from Waikiki Beach, on Thursday and take a half day kayak adventure to Mokulua Islands and a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tour around Oahu. Friday, the team will hike Diamond Head in the morning before heading to the airport for the trip back to North Carolina.
After returning from Hawai’i, the Blue Devils will open the home portion of the spring season at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, January 16, against Elon.#GoDuke