DURHAM, N.C. - The sixth-ranked Duke men's tennis team is set to open Atlantic Coast Conference play this weekend with road matches against No. 28 NC State on Friday, March 16 at 4 p.m. and No. 74 Wake Forest on Sunday, March 18 at 11 a.m. The Blue Devils are 11-2 overall heading into conference play after going 1-1 against a pair of top-10 teams during last weekend's homestand.
Duke surrendered just its first home loss of the season in a hard-fought 4-3 decision against then-No. 15 Pepperdine last Friday at Ambler Tennis Stadium. Pepperdine narrowly claimed the doubles point and split the singles matches with Duke to earn the 4-3 victory. Sophomore Fred Saba and freshmen Jason Tahir and Raphael Hemmeler each contributed singles wins on courts four, five and three, respectively, with Hemmeler pulling out an impressive three-set victory against the Waves' Alex Llompart.
The Blue Devils rebounded on Sunday to post a 6-1 victory over then-No. 8 California for the program's fourth win over a team ranked in the top 25 nationally this season. Senior David Holland and sophomore Chris Mengel recorded a win from the No. 2 position and Hemmeler and sophomore Cale Hammond clinched the doubles point for Duke in their debut as a doubles tandem. In singles, Duke players won their first set on four of the six courts. Junior Henrique Cunha led the way, cruising to a 6-2, 6-0 victory over No. 94 Nick Andrews of Cal on court one, followed by Tahir's straight-sets win in the No. 5 spot. Mengel clinched the match for Duke with a 6-2, 6-2 win against No. 39 Carlos Cueto in the No. 2 matchup, while Saba and senior Luke Marchese also collected singles victories.
The latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings include two Blue Devils ranked in the top 20 nationally in singles, with Cunha listed at No. 3 and Mengel moving up one spot to No. 18. In addition, the duo of Cunha and Saba improved four spots in the doubles rankings to No. 11.
Twenty-eighth ranked NC State owns a ledger of 14-2 and is coming off of two straight wins against Binghamton and Campbell. The Wolfpack has been led by No. 66 Jaime Pulgar, who is 11-1 this spring from the top spot in the singles lineup.
Duke has won 40 consecutive meetings with NC State and holds a 95-2 advantage in the all-time series between the two schools. Last year's contest in Durham saw the Blue Devils post a 7-0 sweep over the Wolfpack.
The Demon Deacons are 9-6 and 7-4 at home entering Sunday's match. David Hopkins and Danny Kreyman have split time at the No. 1 position to lead Wake Forest, while Amogh Prabhakar is 12-2 on the spring from the No. 3 position.
Following a 7-0 sweep of Wake Forest last season in Durham, the Blue Devils lead the overall series between the two programs by an 80-14 margin. Duke is also the winner of the last four meetings between the two schools.
Duke closed out its 2010-11 slate with a record of 9-2 in ACC action and advanced to the finals of the 2011 ACC Tournament before falling to top-ranked Virginia, 4-0.
Live scoring will be available for both of this weekend's matches.
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