DURHAM, N.C. - Duke captured the doubles point against Virginia for the first time since 2010 but could not hold off the third-ranked Cavaliers in singles play, suffering their first Atlantic Coast Conference loss of the season in a 4-3 decision Friday at Ambler Tennis Stadium.
Playing in front of the largest home crowd of the season, the sixth-ranked Blue Devils posted wins on two of the three courts in doubles to capture the point for the fourth consecutive match. Duke (13-3, 2-1 ACC) also collected victories at the No. 4 and 6 spots in singles, but it was Virginia who would come out on top in the battle of top-10 teams.
After winning the doubles point in their previous three matches, the Blue Devils kept the momentum rolling Friday against the Cavaliers. Virginia took an early advantage with Alex Domijan and Julen Uriguen posting an 8-1 victory over Duke's Fred Saba and David Holland on court two. However, the Blue Devils responded with a win at the No. 3 spot, as freshman Raphael Hemmeler and sophomore Cale Hammond defeated Steven Eelkman Rooda and Philippe Oudshoorn, 8-3. Hemmeler and Hammond remain unbeaten on the year with a 4-0 ledger, including a mark of 3-0 in ACC play.
In the decisive match on court one, the 62nd-ranked duo of junior Henrique Cunha and sophomore Chris Mengel had a tough task in No. 10 Jarmere Jenkins and Drew Courtney of Virginia. The two teams traded games until Cunha and Mengel grabbed a key break at 6-all and held on for the 8-6 upset, clinching the point for Duke. Cunha and Mengel improved to 10-4 overall and 3-0 in ACC contests while recording their second win of the season against a ranked doubles pair.
"I felt good about the doubles, especially having an off-day at No. 2 and losing quickly," said head coach Ramsey Smith. "I thought we did a great job at No. 3, getting on top of them. And then Chris and Henrique hung around and hung around, and came up with a huge break in the clutch to pull out the doubles point for us."
The Cavaliers' Alex Domijan, ranked No. 94 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's singles poll, started off singles play with a 6-2, 6-3 victory against No. 18 Mengel in the No. 2 contest. The loss was just Mengel's third of the spring and first in conference action. Virginia took a 2-1 lead in the match just minutes later when Mitchell Frank, the top-ranked player in the nation, defeated Hemmeler by a 6-2, 6-2 margin on court three.
Freshman Jason Tahir turned in an impressive performance against No. 86 Justin Shane in the No. 5 spot, but ultimately fell by scores of 6-3, 7-5. The loss snapped a 10-match win streak by Tahir and moved him to 10-2 in dual match play.
After teaming with Hemmeler for a key win in doubles, Hammond delivered in singles action as well, topping the Cavaliers' Julen Uriguen, 6-4, 6-4, on court six to cut Virginia's lead to 3-2 in the match. Hammond improved to 11-5 on the season and 2-0 in ACC play with the win. Saba then evened the match at 3-all, outlasting Courtney in the No. 4 matchup, 7-5, 6-4. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native earned his 20th singles victory of the season while moving to 8-6 from the No. 4 position in the lineup.
"We were down breaks at No. 6 and No. 4, and we were able to come back and win those sets," Smith said. "We keep putting Cale in and he keeps winning - at singles and doubles. He's doing an incredible job for us ... It was a big win for Fred [as well]. He's been working extremely hard."
With the match locked at 3-3, the decision came down to a battle of top-10 players on court one. Third-ranked Cunha and No. 7 Jenkins both stayed on serve to force a tiebreaker in the first set of their No. 1 singles contest, with Jenkins just edging Cunha in the tiebreak, 7-4. In the next frame, Jenkins garnered a break to go ahead, 3-1, on his way to a 6-1 second-set victory. Cunha fell to 26-6 overall and 12-2 at the No. 1 spot while suffering just his fifth setback to a ranked opponent this season.
The loss dropped Duke to 13-3 overall and 2-1 in ACC play, while Virginia improved to 14-1 and 4-0 in conference action.
"Overall, I think it was a great college match," Smith said. "We had an awesome crowd, good atmosphere out there. And coming down to No. 1 singles, that's just a good match."
The Blue Devils continue their homestand on Sunday, March 25 as they host No. 68 Virginia Tech at 1 p.m.
#3 Virginia 4, #6 Duke 3
Mar 23, 2012 at Durham, N.C.
(Ambler Tennis Stadium)