Duke Punches Ticket to NCAA Round of 16
DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke men's tennis team advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Div. I Men's Tennis Championship for the third consecutive season, defeating No. 23 Louisiana State, 4-1, Sunday in second round action. The eighth-seeded Blue Devils persevered through multiple rain delays and a move indoors to the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center to secure a spot in the Round of 16, where they will face Baylor on Friday, May 18 at 9 a.m. at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.
"This was one of our goals - to make it to the final 16 in Georgia, and to advance only losing one match this weekend was an excellent start," said head coach Ramsey Smith. "There were a couple of rain delays, and I thought we did a really good job today of coming out of each rain delay with a lot of energy and just grabbing the early momentum."
Duke (24-5) opened play Sunday afternoon at Ambler Tennis Stadium by capturing the doubles point for the 21st time this season. In the No. 3 contest, senior Torsten Wietoska and freshman Raphael Hemmeler jumped out to a 4-1 lead on their way to an 8-2 win against LSU's Tom Knights and Stefan Szacinski to give Duke the early advantage in doubles. Wietoska and Hemmeler led the Blue Devils off the courts with a win for the second consecutive match while pushing their season record to 14-5 overall.
The point came down to a pair of tightly-contested matches on courts one and two, with both scores locked at 3-all early on. The duo of senior David Holland and sophomore Fred Saba used a decisive break at 5-4 to fuel an 8-4 victory over the Tigers' Olivier Borsos and Roger Anderson on court two. Holland and Saba improved to 7-3 overall while picking up their third consecutive win in postseason doubles play and clinching the point for Duke. Meanwhile, the 16th-ranked tandem of junior Henrique Cunha and sophomore Chris Mengel led No. 24 Neal Skupski and Chris Simpson of LSU, 6-5, on court one when the match was abandoned.
"Torsten and Rafa played great at the end at the end of the match yesterday and today they were locked in from the very first point," Smith said. "It was just a dominant performance over a good No. 3 team. That helps so much - it takes the pressure off of one and two, knowing that we just need to win one of those matches. That really set the tone."
After a lengthy rain delay at the beginning of singles, the teams resumed play for a short while outdoors before another storm forced the match inside to the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center. Despite waiting out several breaks in the action, the Blue Devils maintained their composure, taking first sets on four of the six courts.
Cunha, ranked fifth-nationally in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association singles poll, was the first Blue Devil to close out his match. The Jaú, Brazil native collected his second singles victory of the 2012 NCAA Championship, racing to a 6-1, 6-1 win against No. 35 Borsos of LSU in the No. 1 position. Cunha is now 37-8 on the season and moves into third place on Duke's all-time wins charts with 113 career singles victories.
"Cunha had another really good day today," Smith said. "He competed unbelievably well ... Cunha made up his mind that he wasn't going to lose and he played great tennis today."
Hemmeler also earned his second singles win of the tournament while giving the Blue Devils a 3-0 advantage in the match with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Szacinski on court five. Hemmeler moved his season ledger to 25-11 overall and 15-2 at the No. 5 spot in the lineup.
The Tigers claimed a point when No. 55 Skupski defeated 38th-ranked Mengel by a 6-1, 6-4 score in the No. 2 contest. However, Saba clinched the match just minutes later, edging LSU's Knights, 6-3, 6-3, on court four to seal a 4-1 Duke victory.
LSU concluded its season with a final record of 15-11.
The Blue Devils improved to 24-5 for the program's best record since the 2000-01 season. Duke has now won two matches in NCAA Championship play for the 14th time in school history and owns an all-time record of 40-21 in 22 NCAA Championship appearances. Up next, the squad travels to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., where it will meet Baylor (19-11) on Friday, May 18 at 9 a.m.
"I feel really good about the rest of the tournament," Smith said. "The last two years we've lost in the Round of 16 and this year we're looking to take it another step or two more ... I'm really happy for the guys - we've got a really special group this year. I'm just excited that the season is still going."
#8 Duke 4, #23 Lousiana State 1
NCAA Div. I Men's Tennis Championship - Second Round
May 13, 2012 at Durham, N.C.
(Ambler Tennis Stadium)
1. #16 Henrique Cunha/Chris Mengel (DU) vs. #24 Neal Skupski/Chris Simpson (LSU) 6-5, unfinished
2. David Holland/Fred Saba (DU) def. Olivier Borsos/Roger Anderson (LSU) 8-4
3. Raphael Hemmeler/Torsten Wietoska (DU) def. Tom Knights/Stefan Szacinski (LSU) 8-2
1. #5 Henrique Cunha (DU) def. #35 Olivier Borsos (LSU) 6-1, 6-1
2. #55 Neal Skupski (LSU) def. #38 Chris Mengel (DU) 6-1, 6-4
3. #113 Torsten Wietoska (DU) vs. #100 Chris Simpson (LSU) 2-6, 5-4, unfinished
4. Fred Saba (DU) def. Tom Knights (LSU) 6-3, 6-3
5. Raphael Hemmeler (DU) def. Stefan Szacinski (LSU) 6-4, 6-3
6. Jason Tahir (DU) vs. James Turbervill (LSU) 6-3, 5-2, unfinished
Lousiana State 15-11; National ranking #23
Duke 24-5; National ranking #8
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (1,5,2,4)