ACC MEN'S TENNIS: UNC swamps Duke, to face UVA for title
UNC senior Nelson Vick took last week’s loss to Duke — UNC’s second to its heated rivals — personally. So personally, in fact, that he spent a whole week compulsively preparing for Saturday’s rematch at the ACC Men’s Tennis Championship. And he accomplished what no other player has done this year.
Vick upended Duke freshman T.J. Pura in straight sets to give the Tar Heels the clinching point in a 4-1 victory and sweep them into the finals against defending champ Virginia at 11 a.m. today at Cary Tennis Park. It was Pura’s first dual meet loss.
“I’m not aware of that and I don’t particularly care,” Vick said of marring Pura’s unblemished dual mark, which included a straight sets win against Vick in Duke’s 5-2 victory over UNC last Sunday. The Blue Devils beat UNC 4-2 earlier in the season.
“I really felt that after I lost (last Sunday) it was my fault that the team lost. I knew that I could beat him so immediately after the match I went and hit the ball machine for two hours,” Vick said.
“And I woke up every day this week at 6 a.m. and hit two hours at the ball machine. I really wanted to come up with a win today,” he said. And he got it, capitalizing on aggressive net play, 6-3, 6-4.
“It’s always important to beat your rival,” Vick said. “I think what it shows is that we can handle adversity. We took a hit, and we responded correctly. … That’s just going to bode well for the NCAA Tournament and the rest of the ACC Tournament.”
Getting past Virginia will take some doing. The Cavaliers have won eight consecutive ACC titles and 10 in the past 11 years.
“We’re looking forward to it. What a great spot to be in,” said UNC coach Sam Paul. “We’re just going to play our game” in hopes of winning a title for the 24th time, and the first since 2002.
Paul said aside from Vick, freshman Ronnie Schneider came up with an important win against Duke senior Fred Saba in the No. 2 position.
“That’s the first time we’ve beaten him in his four-year career. So Ronnie just stepped up and that was a huge win for him,” Paul said.
And he lauded sophomore Brett Clark, who beat Duke junior Raphael Hemmeler 6-3, 6-4 at No. 3, and is now one win shy of the single-season singles record of 36 shared by UNC greats Roland Thornquist and Nick Monroe.
“Brett’s been playing well for us all year. What a rock,” Paul said.
“I didn’t now about the record until I was at about 30 (wins),” Clark said. I try not to think about it out there.”
Clark said beating Virginia, which has 120 consecutive wins against ACC opponents since it lost to Duke in the 2006 ACC Tournament final, is possible.
“I think we’re playing the best tennis of our season right now. We’re definitely hitting our stride,” Clark said. “For some reason this has a different feel to it, and I think if we all play well we can do it.”
Duke coach Ramsey Smith said he was disappointed with Saturday’s loss, but noted Duke had won nine straight before Saturday.
“We should be hosting the first two rounds of NCAAs, and put ourselves in a good position for the post-season,” he said.
ACC TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL
No. 9 North Carolina 4, No. 11 Duke 1
SINGLES — 1. No. 12 Brayden Schnur (UNC) vs. No. 30 Jason Tahir (D) 5-7, 5-3, unfinished; 2. No. 35 Ronnie Schneider (UNC) d. No. 36 Fred Saba (D) 6-4, 6-2; 3. No. 73 Brett Clark (UNC) d. Raphael Hemmeler (D) 6-3, 6-4; 4. No. 92 Bruno Semenzato (D) d. Oystein Steiro (UNC) 6-3, 6-2; 5. Jack Murray (UNC) vs. Josh Levine (D) 5-7, 6-1, 1-3, unfinished; 6. Nelson Vick (UNC) d. TJ Pura (D) 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.
DOUBLES — 1. No. 35 Brayden Schnur/Brett Clark (UNC) d. No. 52 Fred Saba/Raphael Hemmeler (D) 8-2; 2. Oystein Steiro/Nelson Vick (UNC) d. Jason Tahir/Josh Levine (D) 8-7 (7-5); 3. Bruno Semenzato/Cale Hammond (D) d. Jack Murray/Ronnie Schneider (UNC) 8-6.
Records — Duke 19-6; North Carolina 24-4.
* No. refers to national rankings. Duke was the No. 2 seed and UNC is the No. 3 seed in the tournament.