DURHAM, N.C. - After suffering its first loss of the season Friday night to No. 12 Illinois, the No. 19 Duke men’s tennis team rebounded Sunday with a strong performance against Northwestern, blanking the Wildcats 4-0.
“This was a huge match for us,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “I told the guys after the Illinois match that losses really aren’t that big of a deal by themselves because it’s all about how you bounce back. That is important. We dealt with some adversity with guys dinged up, but that was a tremendous effort today. This shows how mentally tough our team is. This is a big win for us moving forward.”
For the fourth time in five matches, Duke got off to an early 1-0 lead thanks to capturing the doubles point. Junior Catalin Mateas and Alvarez got it going, winning 6-2 against Chris Ephron and Michael Lorenzini on court three. The Blue Devil pair broke and held to start the match up 2-0. The two led 3-2 before a hold, break and hold run ended the match. It was the first doubles match of the year for the two.
The Blue Devils finished the point on court one with freshman Sean Sculley and Stachowiak winning their second contest of the weekend, downing Ben Vandixhorn and Dominik Stary 6-3 on court one. The match was on serve through the first five games, with Duke leading 3-2. The Blue Devils broke and held, opening up a 5-2 advantage. Northwestern held on its serve, but a Sculley ace finished off the contest. Sculley and Stachowiak improve to 8-4 overall and 3-2 in dual matches.
Two quick decisions in singles pushed the Blue Devil lead to 3-0 and on the verge of clinching. On court one, Alvarez defeated Antonioni Fasano 6-2, 6-0. Alvarez, ranked No. 48, led 5-1 in the opening set and ran off seven of the final eight games for the victory. Alvarez improves to 7-2 overall and 2-0 in dual matches.
“Nico was incredible today,” Smith added. “He was trying to be aggressive, control the baseline and attack the backhand as much as possible. He got into a really good rhythm and played some really good tennis. We needed him today and he came through.”
“It felt great to be back,” Alvarez said. “My first dual match was at Arizona State, so this was the first I had played at home since April 2016. I had been thinking about that. I really wanted to get out on the courts I always practice on and play for Duke. Being out here felt great. The guys have stepped up really well. I hadn’t competed alongside them in a long time and I’m seeing they’re playing great tennis. You can always look to the courts beside you and know the guy is giving everything for Duke. That makes you want to leave absolutely everything on the court. As a team right now we have great chemistry.”
Stachowiak was not far behind, defeating Nick Brookes 6-3, 6-1 on court three. Stachowiak got out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first set. Brookes trimmed it to a one-game deficit at 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3, but Stachowiak won the final two games. In the second set, Stachowiak led 3-0 and never looked back. He ups his overall record to 14-4 overall and is now 3-1 in dual matches.
The final point came from Levine on court six as he picked up a 6-3, 6-2 win against Ephron. No. 90 Levine led 3-0 in his opening set before Ephron rallied to close the gap to 4-3. Levine had the answer with a break and hold to end it. Levine fell behind 2-0 in the second set before ripping off six consecutive games. He picks up his first dual match win to even his ledger at 1-1 and bump up to 4-2 overall.
“It was huge for him,” Smith said of Levine’s performance. “He brings so much energy and athleticism to the table. He got a match in on Friday, which I think helped him for today. He competes so well. It was nice to see him in that clinching environment and for him to push through like that.”
“I feel great,” Levine said. “It was only my second match back, but I got it done. I had a little bit of a hiccup early in the second set, but [associate head coach Jonathan] Stokke got me back on track. That was a huge win for us, especially after losing a tough one against Illinois on Friday night. It was a huge opportunity to bounce back.”
Duke returns to action Friday with a split weekend, playing at Tennessee for a 7 p.m. serve Friday before returning home for a Sunday doubleheader against Kentucky and N.C. Central on February 11. First serve with the Wildcats is set for 1 p.m. while the contest against the Eagles will begin at 6 p.m.
#19 Duke 4, Northwestern 0
February 4, 2018 at Durham, N.C. (Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center)
1. Nick Stachowiak/Sean Sculley (DU) def. Ben Vandixhorn/Dominik Stary (NU) 6-3
2. Ryan Dickerson/Jason Lapidus (DU) vs. Antonioni Fasano/Nick Brookes (NU) 5-5, unfinished
3. Nicolas Alvarez/Catalin Mateas (DU) def. Chris Ephron/Michael Lorenzini (NU) 6-2
1. #48 Nicolas Alvarez (DU) def. Antonioni Fasano (NU) 6-2, 6-0
2. Catalin Mateas (DU) vs. Dominik Stary (NU) 3-6, 4-3, unfinished
3. Nick Stachowiak (DU) def. Nick Brookes (NU) 6-3, 6-1
4. Sean Sculley (DU) vs. Ben Vandixhorn (NU) 4-6, 4-1, unfinished
5. Ryan Dickerson (DU) vs. Jason Seidman (NU) 6-6 (7-7), unfinished
6. #90 Robert Levine (DU) def. Chris Ephron (NU) 6-3, 6-2
Duke 4-1; National ranking #19
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (1,3,6)
Official: Russ Parmele T-1:54 A-137