DURHAM, N.C. - Junior Henrique Cunha won a super tiebreaker in a showdown of top-15 players at No. 1 singles to lead Duke to a 6-1 victory over No. 62 Georgia Tech Sunday at Ambler Tennis Stadium. The Blue Devils captured the doubles point for the seventh consecutive match and posted wins on five courts in singles to improve to 16-3 overall and 5-1 in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
"Winning our last three matches and only dropping one point in those matches is a great rebound," said head coach Ramsey Smith. "I think we're playing really well. These matches aren't easy, but we're competing well and we're coming through when it matters."
Sophomore Fred Saba and freshman Jason Tahir started off doubles play by teaming up for their second win in as many matches at the No. 3 position, as they rolled past Georgia Tech's Dusan Miljevic and Eduardo Segura, 8-2.
In the contest on court two, the tandem of freshman Raphael Hemmeler and sophomore Cale Hammond rallied from a 7-4 deficit against Vikram Hundal and Sebastian Lopez to force a tiebreaker at 8-all. Hemmeler and Hammond then won the tiebreak by a 7-3 score to take the match and clinch the doubles point for Duke. The victory preserved an undefeated record for Hemmeler and Hammond, who are 7-0 overall and 6-0 in ACC action.
The 26th-ranked duo of Cunha and sophomore Chris Mengel jumped out to a 5-1 lead against seventh-ranked Kevin King and Juan Spir of Georgia Tech, but were unable to hold off the Yellow Jackets in a tough 9-7 loss. Cunha and Mengel fell to 12-5 on the year and suffered just their first loss in dual match play.
"I felt like doubles clicked today," Smith said. "It was unfortunate at one because we played so well for the first 11 games and it was one of those matches that just got away. But we did a good job with the other two spots. We've been winning a lot of doubles points. It's such a big point because we feel so good about our singles, and if we can get that doubles point, we know we're in the driver's seat."
In singles, Hemmeler led the Blue Devils off the courts for the second-straight match, posting a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Lopez in the No. 5 contest. The Duke freshman is 8-1 this spring from the No. 5 position and 18-10 overall in singles play. Fellow rookie Tahir followed with a 6-3, 7-5 win against Hundal on court six to extend the Blue Devils' advantage to 3-0 in the match. Tahir remains unbeaten in the No. 6 spot at 7-0 and owns a record of 5-1 in ACC singles action.
The matches on courts one, two and four all went into first-set tiebreakers with Duke claiming the set on two of the three courts. The Yellow Jackets picked up a point when 26th-ranked Mengel fell to Spir in the No. 2 matchup, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3). However, the Blue Devils quickly responded as Saba clinched the match from the No. 4 slot in a strong performance. After falling behind, 4-1, in the first set against Juan Melian, Saba edged Melian by a 7-4 score in the tiebreak and went on to take the second set by a 6-2 margin. The win extended Saba's win streak to five matches and moved him to 5-1 in conference play.
The two remaining matches were decided in thrilling fashion, as both were forced into third sets. Senior Torsten Wietoska, ranked No. 106 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association singles poll, dropped the first set to Miljevic on court three, but took the second set by a 6-1 score. Wietoska then battled back from a 5-2 deficit and fended off five match points by Miljevic in the decisive set to before rolling to a 7-0 win in the tiebreaker to claim the victory.
Meanwhile, sixth-ranked Cunha also found himself in a tight match on court one against No. 11 King of Georgia Tech. Cunha claimed the first set on a tiebreak, 7-6 (1), and King took the second set by a 7-5 advantage to set up a third set super tiebreak. The two players were locked at 6-all in the super tiebreak before Cunha recorded four-straight points on his way to the 10-6 win. Cunha has now defeated 17 ranked opponents this season, including seven in the top-25 nationally.
"Since I'm at No. 1, I'm playing good players every time," Cunha said. "It doesn't matter the other team's ranking - they always have a good No. 1 player. I'm very proud I could win both matches this weekend."
The victory over Georgia Tech closes out a four-match homestand for the Blue Devils, who went 3-1 in those contests while claiming the doubles point in all four. Up next, Duke will hit the road for a pair of ACC matchups at Florida State on Friday, Apr. 6 and at Miami on Sunday, Apr. 8.
#6 Duke 6, #62 Georgia Tech 1 Apr 01, 2012 at Durham, N.C. Ambler Tennis Stadium