URBANA, Ill. — In a rare Monday afternoon match, 16th-ranked Illinois (3-2) handed No. 14 Duke (6-1) its first loss of the season 4-2 at Atkins Tennis Center. No. 121 senior Abe Souza clinched the match for Illinois with a three-set victory against No. 118 Chris Mengel 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 to collect his 10th win of the year. Despite losing the doubles battle, the Illini once again bounced back in singles to knock off the Blue Devils.
“It was a tough match, but our guys are resilient and we continue to show that,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “I’m very proud of this team in terms of their ability to fight back. Doubles continues to be a mystery, but again, on all six courts, the guys came out and competed really well.”
The decisive doubles point came down to the No. 3 spot, with each tandem holding serve to force a tiebreaker at 8-all. The Duke team of David Holland and Chris Mengel picked up an early break and never looked back to secure the 9-8 (5) win against Souza and junior Roy Kalmanovich.
The Illini quickly stormed back in singles, as sophomore Stephen Hoh recorded his third consecutive win and 12th of the season with a sweep of Jared Pinsky 6-4, 6-1 before Kalmanovich gave Illinois the advantage with a swift 6-4, 6-1, defeat of Fred Saba. Sophomore Bruno Abdelnour followed shortly after with his first dual win of the year, a 6-1, 6-4, victory against Luke Marchese to set up the match-clinching win for Souza.
No. 11 junior Dennis Nevolo was on the verge of a comeback against No. 9 Henrique Cunha, as he took a 5-3 lead in the second set, but both teams had agreed prior to the match to end play as soon as a victory was clinched.