Duke men rout Winthrop in NCAA tennis opener; Vols up next
The 11th-seeded Duke men’s tennis team took an early lead with solid play in doubles and outlasted Winthrop in singles to earn a 4-0 victory over the 73rd-ranked Eagles Saturday at Ambler Tennis Stadium.
The Blue Devils (20-6) advance to the second round of the NCAA Championship, where they will face Tennessee Sunday, May 11 at 2 p.m.
“We took care of business today, and I thought it was good that we got pushed in some spots,” said Duke head coach Ramsey Smith. “We had a couple guys in some tough pressure situations and they came through. I think that will help us for tomorrow against Tennessee.”
The Blue Devils came out strong in doubles, claiming the point with a pair of convincing wins on courts two and three. In the No. 2 contest, junior Jason Tahir and sophomore Josh Levine cruised to an 8-1 decision over the Eagles’ Steven Patrick and Tremayne Mitchell to improve to 8-2 on the season. The Duke duo of sophomore Bruno Semenzato and redshirt junior Cale Hammond followed suit on court three, topping Juan Pablo Boada and Corey Decandia of Winthrop, 8-2. Semenzato and Hammond moved to 4-1 with the win.
The 51st-ranked pair of senior Fred Saba and junior Raphael Hemmeler was on serve at 3-all against Dylan Comerford and Peter Nagovnak of the Eagles when that No. 1 contest was abandoned.
Leading 1-0 heading into singles play, the Blue Devils doubled that score after Hemmeler rolled to a 6-0, 6-1 result over Winthrop’s Patrick at the No. 3 position. Hemmeler reached the 20-win mark for the third time in as many seasons at Duke, sitting at 20-10 overall and 8-3 at the No. 3 spot.
Tahir, the 32nd-ranked player in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Division I singles poll, surrendered just two points en route to winning his first set against Yuta Hirokawa of the Eagles on court one. After falling behind 3-0 to start the second set, Tahir battled back to close out in straight sets, 6-0, 6-4. The Blue Devil junior moved his season ledger to 23-9 overall and 14-9 at the No. 1 position.
With Duke needing just one more point, the Eagles turned up the pressure on the remaining courts. A little while later, freshman TJ Pura edged Winthrop’s Michael Chen in a second set tiebreak on court six, 7-3, to clinch the match for Duke. Pura improved to 22-6 in singles and 9-1 at the No. 6 slot.
“Tournament tennis is different than anything you get during the regular season since it’s ‘survive and advance,’” Pura said. “You’ve just got to compete every point. You definitely feel a little bit more nerves than normal ... You’ve also got to expect your opponents to play their best tennis. Credit to Winthrop for giving us a tough fight today.”
The contests on courts four and five were in third sets when the match ended, while 44th-ranked Saba was leading Comerford on court two, 7-5, 5-1.
“In singles, we won half the first sets 6-0 and looked to be in a really good position,” Smith said. “I think it was a combination of us relaxing just a little bit and Winthrop fighting extremely well. It ended up being their last match of the season, and for their seniors, it was their last college tennis match. They fought really hard and pushed us, and that last point was tough.”
The Eagles concluded their 2014 campaign with a final record of 16-10.
“It was exciting to see how our guys fought back after losing the doubles point and falling behind in the first singles set to keep competing and trying hard to have a chance there at the end,” said Winthrop head coach Andrew Stubbs. “It says a lot about what we are building here [at Winthrop]. These guys have come a long way, and I am looking forward to see how we continue to develop next year.”
Duke and the 20th-ranked Volunteers will meet for the second time this season Sunday at 2 p.m. Tennessee held off a late charge by Elon in Saturday’s earlier contest to advance by a 4-1 score.
NCAA TOURNAMENT/1ST ROUND
No. 11 Duke 4, No. 73 Winthrop 0
at Ambler Tennis Stadium
DOUBLES — 1. No. 51 Fred Saba/Raphael Hemmeler (D) vs. Dylan Comerford/Peter Nagovnak (W) 3-3, unfinished; 2. Josh Levine/Jason Tahir (D) def. Steven Patrick/ Tremayne Mitchell (W) 8-1; 3. Bruno Semenzato/Cale Hammond (D) def. Juan Pablo Boada/Corey DeCandia (W) 8-2.
SINGLES — 1. No. 32 Jason Tahir (D) def. Yuta Hirokawa (W) 6-0, 6-4; 2. No. 44 Fred Saba (D) vs. Dylan Comerford (W) 7-5, 5-1, unfinished; 3. Raphael Hemmeler (D) def. Steven Patrick (W) 6-0, 6-1; 4. No. 89 Bruno Semenzato (D) vs. Tremayne Mitchell (W) 6-0, 3-6, 4-3, unfinished; 5. Josh Levine (D) vs. Juan Pablo Boada (W) 4-6, 6-4, 1-3, unfinished; 6. TJ Pura (D) def. Michael Chen (W) 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).
Records — Winthrop 16-10, Duke 20-6.