No. 5 Duke holds off No. 8 California
Blue Devils win five of six singles matches, collect 11th win
DURHAM, N.C. - Fifth-ranked Duke closed out its weekend homestand with a 6-1 victory against No. 8 California in a showdown of top-10 teams Sunday at Ambler Tennis Stadium.
Duke (11-2) rebounded from a tough 4-3 loss to No. 15 Pepperdine on Friday, claiming the doubles point and winning five of the six singles contests against the Golden Bears. The match marked the teams' third win against a top-10 opponent this season.
The Blue Devils took the first of the three doubles matches as senior David Holland and sophomore Chris Mengel defeated Cal's Ben and Riki McLachlan on court two. Holland and Mengel jumped out to a 6-0 lead against the Golden Bears on their way to an 8-2 victory, improving to 10-4 on the season and 6-3 in the No. 2 spot. The 15th-ranked duo of junior Henrique Cunha and sophomore Fred Saba fell to fifth-ranked Nick Andrews and Christoffer Konigsfeldt, 8-6, to even things up at one match apiece in doubles.
In the No. 3 matchup, freshman Raphael Hemmeler and sophomore Cale Hammond were impressive in their debut as a doubles tandem. The Blue Devils picked up a critical break late in the match to edge the Bears' Gregory Bayane and Andrew Scholnick by a 9-7 margin, securing the doubles point for Duke.
"We've only played together one time in practice before that, and I was really excited to play with [Hemmeler] because he's such a good doubles player," Hammond said. "I knew it was going to be fun ... We played really solid and that was a big win."
"[Cale] really stepped up for us and played a great match," said head coach Ramsey Smith. "The doubles was key for sure, especially after losing doubles on Friday ... We were able to finish in doubles, which really helped us in singles."
Duke carried that momentum into singles play, winning the first set on four of the six courts. Second-ranked Cunha rolled to a 6-2, 6-0 win against No. 94 Andrews in the No. 1 singles contest, moving him to 10-1 from the top spot in the lineup. Freshman Jason Tahir extended the Blue Devils' lead to 3-0 with a 6-1, 6-3 defeat of Konigsfeldt on court five. Tahir is now 14-5 overall and 8-1 in dual match singles play.
Nineteenth-ranked Mengel clinched the match for Duke a short time later, downing No. 39 Carlos Cueto, 6-2, 6-2, from the No. 2 position for his 22nd singles victory of the season. Mengel also improved to 8-2 in No. 2 singles play while earning his seventh win against a ranked opponent. The Golden Bears picked up a match on court three, as Hemmeler fell to 40th-ranked Ben McLachlan by scores of 6-1, 6-4.
The Blue Devils closed out the day with a pair of strong performances on courts four and six. In the No. 4 matchup, Saba pulled out a win in a first-set tiebreaker against Bayane and then cruised to a 6-2 victory in the second set for his seventh win of the spring. After dropping the first set of his No. 6 contest to Riki McLachlan, senior Luke Marchese stormed back to win the second set by a 7-5 margin and took the third set tiebreaker at 10-7, wrapping up a 6-1 victory for Duke. The win was Marchese's 10th of the year and second in dual match singles play.
"I think we showed our resilience today," Smith said. "We've only lost twice all year and both times we've followed it up with a top-10 win, so you really get to see the true character of the team."