DURHAM, N.C. – Senior Fred Saba collected the 100th victory of his singles career to lead 13th-ranked Duke to a 7-0 victory over No. 72 Georgia Tech Sunday, Apr. 13 in ACC action at Ambler Tennis Stadium. The Blue Devils defeated the short-handed Yellow Jackets in two doubles and five singles contests to earn their sixth consecutive win.
“We’ve got some confidence – that Notre Dame win really springboarded us,” said head coach Ramsey Smith. “The team’s done a really good job of preparing for every single match and treating every match the same, and then once we get out there, just focusing on competing and executing our game plans. I definitely feel like we are a much tougher team and I think we’ve built up a lot of belief in ourselves.”
The Blue Devils (16-5, 8-1 ACC) defeated two ranked teams in doubles to take the opening point of the match. On court one, the 61st-ranked duo of senior Fred Saba and junior Raphael Hemmeler knocked off the 43rd-ranked pair of Eduardo Segura and Carlos Benito by an 8-3 score. Saba and Hemmeler improved to 12-4 overall with the victory and 6-3 at the No. 1 spot.
In the No. 2 contest, junior Jason Tahir and sophomore Josh Levine picked up a break at 3-2 and went on to top No. 79 Nathan Rakitt and Cole Fiegel of Georgia Tech, 8-6. The Duke duo recorded its fifth consecutive win in conference play, moving to 5-0 on the spring.
In singles, No. 50 Saba led the way with a 6-2, 6-0 decision over Segura on court two. The senior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., became the 12th player in program history to reach the 100-win milestone in singles, moving his career ledger to 100-46 and his season mark to 18-6.
“When I first got here, just looking at the wall and the list of all the players with 100 wins, that was one of my performance goals,” Saba said. “I’m just fortunate enough to have been healthy for the majority of my four years here and I’ve been surrounded by great staff and great teammates to help me get better each step of the way.”
Saba also notched his sixth-straight singles victory while improving to 10-2 at the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
“Fred has been playing really well as of late,” Smith said. “He’s certainly had some ups and downs in his career and also this year, but he’s been pretty focused, he’s fought through a lot of tough matches and he’s been working really hard on his game and the mental side has been there.”
Hemmeler clinched the match from the No. 3 position, rolling to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Benito of the Yellow Jackets. The Zurich, Switzerland native went up a break at 3-2 in the first set and cruised in the second set to improve to 18-7 for the season and 8-1 in ACC action. Hemmeler also extended his win streak to six contests in conference singles play.
Tahir extended the Blue Devils’ lead in the match to 5-0 with a victory in straight sets at the top spot. The 42nd-ranked player in the ITA singles poll, Tahir took the first set against No. 112 Rakitt of Georgia Tech, 6-3. After Tahir jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the second set, Rakitt came back to force a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, the Blue Devil junior started out with a 5-2 advantage en route to claiming a 7-4 win. Tahir now sits at 21-7 on the season and 6-3 in the No. 1 position with eight victories over ranked opponents.
In a tight contest on court four, 88th-ranked Semenzato emerged victorious following a second-set tiebreak and third-set super tiebreak. The Yellow Jackets’ Fiegel won the first set by a 6-3 margin before Semenzato fought back from a 1-3 deficit in the second set to win a tiebreak, 7-3. The Duke sophomore carried that momentum into the super tiebreak, dispatching Fiegel by a 10-2 score for his sixth consecutive victory. Semenzato is now 28-8 for the season and 8-1 in league singles play.
Attention then shifted to court five, where Levine and Colin Edwards of Georgia Tech had split the first two sets. Levine claimed the final three games of the decisive set to win 6-3 and seal the 7-0 team victory for the Blue Devils.
Up next, Duke enters its final weekend of regular season action, traveling to Wake Forest Friday, Apr. 18 for a 4 p.m. match before returning home to host North Carolina Sunday, Apr. 20 on Senior Day in Ambler Tennis Stadium. That contest is set for a 1 p.m. start and will be streamed live on the Blue Devil Network.
#13 Duke 7, #72 Georgia Tech 0 Apr 13, 2014 at Durham, N.C. (Ambler Tennis Stadium)