Duke survives Seminoles
Blue Devils rally after losing doubles point to beat Florida State
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Strong performances in singles action propelled seventh-ranked Duke to a huge 4-3 come-from-behind victory against No. 26 Florida State on Friday.
Florida State claimed the doubles point with wins on courts one and three, but the Blue Devils responded with four wins in singles to hand the Seminoles their first loss of the season in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
"We were ready for this match, we were motivated," said head coach Ramsey Smith. "Florida State was sitting on top of the ACC and we knew they were going to be tough at their place. It was just really rewarding to see the guys play in a tough environment, lose the doubles point and find a way to hang in there and pull off four singles wins."
Duke (17-3, 6-1 ACC) dropped the doubles point for the first time in eight matches, giving Florida State a 1-0 advantage in the match. Sophomore Cale Hammond and freshman Raphael Hemmeler posted the lone doubles victory for Duke, defeating the Seminoles' Anderson Reed and Dominic Cotrone by an 8-6 score in the No. 2 contest. Hammond and Hemmeler remain undefeated as a tandem with an overall record of 8-0 and a 7-0 mark in ACC play.
The 26th-ranked of junior Henrique Cunha and sophomore Chris Mengel led Florida State's Blake Davis and Jordan Kelly-Houston at 3-2 on court one, but ultimately suffered an 8-6 setback to the Seminole duo. The loss was just Cunha and Mengel's second of the season at the No. 1 position. In the doubles matchup on court three, sophomore Fred Saba and freshman Jason Tahir fell to Andres Bucaro and Benjamin Lock, 8-1.
"I thought [Florida State] played a very good doubles point," Smith said. "They were the more aggressive team, and I just felt like they were taking it to us and we were playing on our heels a little bit. After the doubles point, I said to the guys that we wanted to be more aggressive in singles and make sure that we were dictating on our terms."
Despite not capturing the doubles point, Duke bounced back with a strong showing in singles play. Sixth-ranked Cunha led the Blue Devils off the courts with a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Kelly-Houston on court one for his 30th win of the year in singles action. The Jaú, Brazil, native also improved to 16-2 at the top spot in the lineup and 6-1 in league contests with the victory.
The Blue Devils took a 2-1 lead in the match as Hemmeler came back from a 4-1 deficit in the first set to down Florida State's Jason Zafiros, 7-5, 6-2, in the contest on court five. The win extended Hemmeler's win streak to four matches and moved him to 9-1 on the spring at the No. 5 position.
After Tahir fell to Lock of Florida State in a 6-1, 6-4 loss on court six, Duke regained the lead with a 6-4, 6-3 victory by Saba in the No. 4 matchup. Saba now owns a ledger of 6-1 in ACC singles play and has won five consecutive matches.
Senior Torsten Wietoska, ranked No. 106 nationally in singles, dropped a hard-fought 7-5, 6-2 contest to Bucaro on court three. That tied the score at 3-all, meaning the decision would come down to the match between 26th-ranked Mengel and Florida State's Davis on court two. Mengel claimed the first set by a 6-4 margin but fell behind Davis, 2-0, in the second set. However, Mengel rallied to take the second set and the match, clinching the 4-3 victory for the Blue Devils.
"Cunha's win was huge ... He got up early and we really needed one of the guys to come off quickly," Smith said. "I thought we did a great job competing in all six singles matches. A lot of matches went back and forth ... Chris was down a break in both sets but he did really well and did a great job finishing that out. I was really proud of the guys. It was a big win for us."