Duke men, UNC women fall in ACC semifinals
In ACC men’s tennis, kingpin Virginia draws all the attention because of its 105-match winning streak in league play.
The Duke Blue Devils, after playing the Cavaliers tough in a 4-3 regular season loss, had their eyes on finally knocking the six-time reigning league champs off at the ACC Tournament.
On Saturday, No. 3-seeded Wake Forest ruined that dream.
The Deacons, dominated by No. 2 seed Duke in the regular season and having lost the first three points in Saturday’s ACC Tournament semifinal, rallied to top the Blue Devils 4-3 to earn their own shot at top-seeded Virginia today.
“This is the worst feeling I’ve ever felt since I’ve been in the sport,” Duke junior Chris Mengel said.
The North Carolina women’s team doesn’t feel much better. The top-seeded Tar Heels, ranked No. 2 in the country, also were victimized by an upset that ruined their ACC championship hopes on Saturday at Cary Tennis Park.
UNC lost 4-3 to No. 10-ranked Miami, the ACC’s Tournament’s No. 4 seed, in a hard-fought 4½ hour match. Similar to the Duke men, the Tar Heels (25-3) had defeated Miami during the regular season.
“It’s really disappointing for us seniors with it being our last (ACC Tournament),” said Zoe DeBruycker, UNC’s No. 2 singles player. “In the years I’ve been here, we’ve made it to finals. It’s just really weird and disappointing.”
With top-seeded Virginia having already won its semifinal match over Clemson 4-0 earlier Saturday, Duke appeared to be rolling toward another finals matchup with the Cavaliers.
Duke (22-5) won the doubles point and took a 3-0 lead when Henrique Cuhna at No. 1 and Jason Tahir at No. 6 won their singles matches in straight sets.
But at No. 2, Daniel Kreyman bested Duke’s Fred Saba 6-4, 6-2 to get the Demon Deacons (20-7) on the board.
At No. 5 singles, Duke’s Raphael Hemmeler had an early advantage but couldn’t hold off Jon Ho in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 decision.
At No. 4 singles, Adam Lee ousted Mengel 7-5, 7-5 to even the overall match at 3-3.
That left the outcome on the racket of Duke freshman Michael Redlicki at No. 3 singles. Redlicki took the first set 6-3 before Wake Forest’s Amogh Prabhakar rallied to win the second set 7-5.
The third set was knotted 4-4 when Redlicki began experiencing severe leg cramping.
Still, after losing 5-4 against Prabhakar’s serve, Redlicki held serve to tie things at 5-5.
After a break where Redlicki received fluids and a quick treatment on his leg, he broke Prabhakar’s serve to take a 6-5 lead.
But, serving for the match to deliver the overall win to Duke, Redlicki lost four consecutive points and the match headed to a tiebreaker.
Serving first, Prabhakar’s captured the point with a forehand winner. On Redlicki’s first tiebreaker serve, Prabhakar lofted a shot that landed near the baseline. Redlicki signaled it out, but the ACC chair umpire overruled him to give the point to Prabhakar. A penalty point was also assessed against Redlicki on the play to give Prabhakar a 3-0 tiebreaker lead.
Redlicki hit into the net giving Prabhakar a 4-0. On the next point, Redlicki called Prabhakar’s serve out but again was overruled by the chair umpire.
Since it was the fourth time Redlicki had been overruled, the automatic penalty is the game to Prabhakar. Since it came in a tiebreaker of a 3-3 tie, that awarded the match to Wake Forest.
That was quite a different outcome than the regular-season meeting on March 15 at Ambler Tennis Stadium, when Duke blitzed Wake Forest 7-0.
“I think we got a little complacent,” Mengel said. “That’s a team that we demolished earlier in the season. Whether we took them for granted, I don’t know if that was the case. I thought we were ready to play. But clearly we didn’t bring everything we needed to today.”
Duke coach Ramsey Smith credited Wake Forest for playing well.
“Bottom line, we just felt like we got out-competed,” Smith said. “We certainly had our chances to put them away and we didn’t do it.”
UNC’s women had a chance to claim the doubles point against Miami when ACC player of the year Gina Suarez-Malaguti and her partner, Tessa Lyons, took a 5-0 lead at No. 3 doubles.
But Miami’s Steffi Wagner and Brittany Dubins rallied for a stunning 8-6 win.
“I think we got a little careless and a little overconfident and tried to do too much when the simple play was working,” UNC coach Brian Kalbas said. “Once we lost that lead, we got hesitant and tentative. So we started pressing.”
Miami’s Kelsey Laurente and Melissa Bolivar beat Ashley Dai and Lauren McHale at No. 2 doubles giving Miami a 1-0 lead.
UNC won three singles matches, but DeBruycker dropped a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 decision to Laurente at No. 2 singles and the Hurricanes advanced.
“We maybe got a little comfortable,” Kalbas said. “We were doing well and maybe got complacent and let it slip through our fingers.”