KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – For the 18th straight season the Duke men’s tennis team won its first round match in the NCAA Tournament, defeating No. 51 Radford, 4-0, on Friday at the University of Tennessee Varsity Tennis Courts in Knoxville, Tenn.
Heavy rains in the morning delayed the match for one hour and forced the NCAA to move the match to the University of Tennessee’s four indoor courts.
“I think we played great. It was a close match,” said head coach Ramsey Smith. “We played very well. Doubles could have gone either way and that set the tone. We were fortunate to sneak out doubles with a win. That could have changed things. We were able to get two matches done quickly. No. 1 was a battle. We knew it would be going in.”
The 23rd-ranked Blue Devils came away with a tightly contested doubles point to start things off on a good note. Reid Carleton and Torsten Wietoska gave Duke a quick advantage by cruising to an 8-2 win at the No. 3 doubles spot. The duo played together for just the third time this season and is now 2-1. Radford’s 54th-ranked No. 1 doubles team of Martin Sayer and Zach Watson evened things up with an 8-3 win.
The No. 2 doubles match was close throughout and the Blue Devils’ pair of Dylan Arnould and David Holland trailed 8-7 before earning the point to force a tiebreaker. The tiebreaker was all Duke as Arnould and Holland defeated Ivan Salec and Mehdi Benhammou 7-2 to give the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead in the match. Arnould and Holland improved to 4-3 as a team with the win. Radford came into the match winning the doubles point in 18 of its last 20 contests.
The middle of the singles lineup gave Duke a boost. Jared Pinsky fell down big early at No. 4 but rallied to win the first set 6-4 over Benhammou. Pinsky won the second set easily, 6-1, for the first singles point of the day. He improved to 22-14 on the season and is 12-7 when playing at the No. 4 spot. Arnould also won in straight sets, defeating Stefan Bojic 6-4, 6-2 at the No. 3 spot. Arnould set a career high for singles wins with his 22nd victory of the year.
Duke’s only senior, No. 56 Kiril Dimitrov, gave Duke the victory in the match. Dimitrov faced Ivan Salec in the No. 2 singles match. Dimitrov won the first set 6-2 only to see Salec flip the score in the second set with a 6-2 victory of his own. In the third set, Dimitrov pulled away at the end for a 6-3 win, his first match clincher of the year. He has a team-best 27-12 record on the season, including a 14-4 mark at the No. 2 spot.
“I’ve been in this situation many times this year. I felt very confident in finishing strong,” said Dimitrov. “It’s something I’ve been working on. I was confident I could pull it out.”
Duke improves to 16-8 overall on the year and will advance to the second round where they will play the winner of the match between No. 5 Tennessee and No. 61 East Tennessee State. The second round match will take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Radford ends their season with a 20-4 overall record.