DURHAM, N.C. – Following a pair of home wins last weekend, the Duke men’s tennis team returns to the road for two challenging road matches this weekend, visiting No. 17 Illinois and No. 9 Northwestern. The Blue Devils (3-1) suffered their lone loss on the road at No. 15 Kentucky on January 20.
This year will mark the fourth time in the last five years Duke has played Illinois and Northwestern. In the three previous seasons, all three teams have been ranked in the top 40 at the time of the matches.
Illinois Series History
Friday’s contest will be the 23rd all-time meeting between the Blue Devils and the Fighting Illini with Illinois holding a 15-7 advantage in the series … The two squads have met annually since the beginning of the 1999 campaign … Duke has won three of the last five after enduring a 10-match losing streak from 2003-11 … Duke is 2-7 in Champaign, but won on its last visit, a 4-3 triumph on January 30, 2015 … Last year in Durham, the match went down to the wire as it was even at 3-3 before Aleks Vukic slipped past TJ Pura in three sets on court two, clinching the match with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory … Current sophomores Catalin Mateas and Vincent Lin won their singles matches a year ago while current junior Nicolas Alvarez fell 6-2, 6-4 on court one.
Scouting the Fighting Illini
Illinois is 1-1 in dual match play as it gets ready for its first home match of the campaign … Last weekend the Fighting Illini headed to Norman, Okla., for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend and defeated No. 25 Arkansas 4-2 before falling 4-0 to No. 16 Oklahoma … Illinois’ lineup features three ranked individuals with No. No. 29 Aron Hiltzik, No. 85 Aleksandar Kovacevic and No. 100 Gui Gomes … Hiltzik posted a 27-11 record in singles a year who while Kovacevic and Gomes are freshmen.
Northwestern Series History
The Blue Devils hold a 7-2 lead in the all-time series with the Wildcats as the two resumed the series in 2013 following a 19-year break … Duke has won six of the last seven matches after dropping the initial contest on March 23, 1967 … The Blue Devils dropped a 5-2 decision year ago in Durham … Last spring, Northwestern jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the match with the doubles point and first four singles matches before Duke took the last two points … In their dual match careers, Alvarez, Lin, Mateas and Pura are the only ones to have played against Northwestern … Pura, Mateas and Lin are all 0-1 while Alvarez is 2-0 … At the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship this fall, Alvarez defeated Northwestern’s Strong Kirchheimer 6-1, 6-1 to advance to the consolation bracket championship.
Scouting the Wildcats
Northwestern is off to a strong start at 6-0 and an ITA Kick-Off Weekend championship claimed last Sunday … Northwestern topped Memphis and Georgia Tech by 4-0 scores to advance to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship from February 17-20 in Charlottesville, Va. … Kirchheimer is the lone ranked singles player on the squad, checking in at No. 26 … He is 2-1 in dual matches, all in the top position … Konrad Zieba is 4-1 in the No. 2 position while Sam Shropshire is 3-2 on court three … Northwestern has combined to go 9-0 in the No. 4 and No. 6 slots … In doubles, Shropshire and Zieba are 4-0 at No. 1 while Kirchheimer and Dominik Stary are 5-1 overall, 4-1 on court two.
“This is a great weekend for us every year,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “We get to play two top teams. Northwestern has really progressed as a program. They’re playing really good tennis.
“I like the road matches,” Smith continued. “They present different challenges to our team, but really bring the team together. It’s kind of nice to get away from campus for a little bit and have full focus on the task at hand. These are two exciting places to play. I really like the challenge. It will be a great opportunity for our young team. We’re looking to finish the indoor portion of the season strong and get that little bit better.”
Undefeated in Doubles
Freshmen Spencer Furman and Nick Stachowiak have combined forces in doubles, posting a 9-0 record and 4-0 mark in dual matches … The duo’s nine-match winning streak is the longest for a Duke pair since Jason Tahir and Josh Levine took nine straight from February 28 – April 18, 2015 … The streak is the longest for a Blue Devil doubles team to open the spring portion of the campaign since Fred Saba and Chris Mengel captured nine straight from January 9 – February 15, 2013.
Stachowiak’s Winning Streak
In addition to his success in doubles, Stachowiak has also captured seven straight singles contests, the longest winning streak for the Blue Devils since Raphael Hemmeler's nine from March 15 – April 16, 2015 … Duke has had at least one rookie win his first four dual matches the last seven years with Stachowiak this year, Mateas in 2016, Alvarez in 2015, Pura in 2014, Levine and Daniel McCall in 2013, Hemmeler in 2012 and Mengel and Saba in 2011.
Last Time Out
Duke completed a weekend sweep with a 6-1 victory against VCU Saturday evening … The Blue Devils claimed the doubles point for the third straight match, using wins from Furman and Stachowiak, 6-1 on court two, as well as Mateas and sophomore Lin, 6-4 on court one, to take the early lead … Duke tallied its second point with Stachowiak’s 6-2, 6-2 victory against Louis Ishizaka on court four … The Blue Devils’ lead was pushed to 3-0 as Pura picked up a 6-3, 6-1 decision against Philip Mobius on court six … For the second straight match it was Furman providing the deciding point as he defeated Javier Amantegui 6-4, 6-2 on court five … The Blue Devils made it a five-point lead when Mateas beat Marten Jonsson 7-5, 6-2 on court two … Playing his first career match on court one, Lin turned in a comeback victory and downed Vitor Lima 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 to extend Duke’s lead to 6-0 … VCU tallied its lone point on court three, where Inaki Rivero Crespo held off freshman Robert Levine for a 7-6 (1), 4-6, 1-0 (7) win.
Duke returns home for its final scheduled indoor matches of the season, hosting Tennessee and N.C. Central on Sunday, February 12 … First serve against the Volunteers is slated for 1 p.m. while the contest with the Eagles begins at 6 p.m.