CARY, N.C. – The ninth-ranked Duke men’s tennis team jumped out to a 3-0 advantage but was unable to hold off No. 24 Wake Forest, falling to the Demon Deacons in a thrilling 4-3 decision Saturday afternoon in the semifinals of the 2013 Atlantic Coast Conference Championship at Cary Tennis Park.
The second-seeded Blue Devils (22-5, 10-1 ACC), captured the doubles point and collected two early victories in singles but a late rally by third-seeded Wake Forest (20-7, 7-3 ACC) ended Duke’s run in the tournament.
“This was a match we were in a position to win and we couldn’t do it,” said head coach Ramsey Smith. “Full credit to Wake Forest. They competed really well.”
The 24th-ranked tandem of sophomore Jason Tahir and freshman Michael Redlicki led Duke off the courts in doubles, using a key break at 5-3 to collect an 8-3 victory over the Demon Deacons’ Danny Kreyman and Adam Lee. The win pushed Tahir and Redlicki’s record to 24-6 overall and 15-4 in dual match play.
Senior Henrique Cunha and sophomore Raphael Hemmeler, the second-ranked doubles pair in the nation, went up by a break against No. 48 Amogh Prabhakar and David Hopkins of Wake Forest on two occasions in the No. 1 doubles contest. However, Prabhakar and Hopkins fought back to tie the score at 6-all before the Duke duo closed out the match and clinched the doubles point with a 9-7 win. Cunha and Hemmeler registered their second doubles victory of the ACC Tournament with the victory, and also improved their overall mark to 33-3.
Juniors Chris Mengel and Fred Saba were trailing Jon Ho and Anthony Delcore, 5-7, on court three when the match was abandoned.
The Blue Devils kept the momentum rolling early on in singles action, posting first-set wins on four of the six courts. Cunha, the No. 6 player in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s national singles rankings, set the tone early with an emphatic 6-2, 6-1 win over Wake Forest’s Hopkins in the No. 1 matchup. With the victory, Cunha remained unbeaten at the No. 1 spot in dual match singles play with a 17-0 ledger. Tahir then swung the score to 3-0 in Duke’s favor just a short while later, topping Delcore in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2. The Rochester, N.Y., native delivered his second singles win of the tournament and moved to 28-4 overall on the spring.
Although the Blue Devils held a 3-0 advantage in the match, Wake Forest showed no signs of relenting, forcing third sets on two courts. Kreyman picked up a point for the Demon Deacons in the No. 2 contest, defeating No. 37 Saba by a 6-4, 6-2 margin. After 70th-ranked Hemmeler took the first set on court five by a score of 6-4, Ho of Wake Forest responded with a 6-2 win in the second and outlasted Hemmeler in the third set, 6-2. With the match score at 3-2, attention then turned to the remaining action on courts three and four.
Redlicki, the No. 52 player in the ITA singles poll, raced to a 6-3 win in the first set of his No. 3 singles match against 78th-ranked Prabhakar, who then edged the Duke rookie in the second frame, 7-5. The deciding set saw the two players trade breaks three times, with Prabhakar forcing a third-set tiebreaker.
Meanwhile, two more ranked players were locked in a tight contest on court five, as the Demon Deacons’ Lee, ranked No. 105 in the nation, thwarted a first-set rally by No. 112 Mengel to win, 7-5. In the second set, Mengel kept Lee on the court for an extended amount of time, but ultimately fell, 7-5, to tie the match at 3-3.
Despite a strong effort from Redlicki in the deciding No. 5 match, Prabhakar won the tiebreaker, 7-0, to send Wake Forest to the 4-3 semifinal win. The Demon Deacons will face top-seed Virginia, who downed Clemson in the other semifinal by a 4-0 score, Sunday, Apr. 28 in the championship match.
“I hope this motivates our team, because we have a good team," Smith said. "We just didn’t take care of business today.”
Duke will await the 2013 NCAA Tournament selections, which will be announced Tuesday, Apr. 30.
Wake Forest vs Duke
ACC Championship Semfinals
Apr 27, 2013 at Cary, N.C.
(Cary Tennis Park)
#24 Wake Forest 4, #9 Duke 3
1. #6 Henrique Cunha (DU) def. David Hopkins (WF) 6-2, 6-1
2. Danny Kreyman (WF) def. #37 Fred Saba (DU) 6-4, 6-2
3. #78 Amogh Prabhakar (WF) def. #52 Michael Redlicki (DU) 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-0)
4. #105 Adam Lee (WF) def. #112 Chris Mengel (DU) 7-5, 7-5
5. Jon Ho (WF) def. #70 Raphael Hemmeler (DU) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
6. Jason Tahir (DU) def. Anthony Delcore (WF) 6-1, 6-2
1. #2 Henrique Cunha/Raphael Hemmeler (DU) def. #48 Amogh Prabhakar/David Hopkins (WF) 9-7
2. #24 Jason Tahir/Michael Redlicki (DU) def. Danny Kreyman/Adam Lee (WF) 8-3
3. #64 Fred Saba/Chris Mengel (DU) vs. Jon Ho/Anthony Delcore (WF) 5-7, unfinished
Wake Forest 20-7; National ranking #24
Duke 22-5; National ranking #9
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (1,6,2,5,4,3)