May 15, 2010

*Courtesy of Duke University Athletics

DURHAM, North Carolina - Duke men's tennis will be heading to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006 after they defeated No. 19 North Carolina, 4-1, on Saturday at Ambler Tennis Stadium in the second round.

In a match much closer than the final score, Duke's freshman Henrique Cunha came through with the match-clinching victory. The Blue Devils held a 3-1 lead in the contest with each of the final three matches in the third set. Cunha led 5-3 in his third set with a chance to serve for the win, but North Carolina's Clay Donato broke serve to bring the score to within 5-4. Cunha, the No. 2 player in the country and only player in ACC history to win both ACC Player and Freshman of the Year, continued to show his mental toughness, breaking right back to send Duke to the next round.

Cunha has now won 20 straight singles matches and is 21-2 in dual matches this year. He is 23-3 against ranked opponents and 35-5 overall. With his victory on Saturday, Cunha ties his head coach Ramsey Smith for most wins by a freshman in school history and is now one win shy of the school record for victories in a single season held by Ludovic Walter (2003-04) and Andres Pedroso (2000-01).

Earlier in the afternoon when Cunha, Reid Carleton and Jared Pinsky had all just entered their third sets, sophomore Torsten Wietoska was trailing in his third set to No. 90 Brennan Boyajian. Wietoska had already battled back after losing the first set, 6-3, to take the second, 6-2. Now facing a deficit late in his match, he broke serve to jump ahead and get the match back on serve. The two players ended up going to a tiebreaker in which Wietoska came through with a 7-3 win to give Duke its third point in the match. The win was his 19th of the season and third against a ranked opponent.

The only two matches to finish in straight sets were at No. 3 and 6. Duke's Luke Marchese was the first to close out, picking up a 6-3, 6-2 win over Andrew Crone in the final spot of the order. Marchese is 22-7 this season with a 16-2 record in dual matches. North Carolina's No. 100 Stefan Hardy won a tight match against No. 101 Dylan Arnould of Duke. Hardy earned a 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory for the Tar Heel's only point in the match.

Duke earned the doubles point for the 21st time in 28 matches this season. The same as Friday, the Blue Devils received victories from the No. 1 and 3 spots with the top-ranked duo in the country, Carleton and Cunha, closing out the point. The duo earned revenge against No. 19 Clay Donato and Stefan Hardy from their only loss during ACC play this year. Carleton and Cunha won 8-4 to improve to 39-5 overall and 13-5 against ranked teams. Wietoska and Alain Michel finished first with an 8-3 win against Crone and Jose Hernandez.

The Blue Devils earned win No. 20 for the season, marking the 19th 20-win season in school history. It is the first since 2006 when the team went 22-7 and made the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament. North Carolina ends their season with an 18-7 ledger.

Duke will head to Athens, Ga. for the remainder of the NCAA Team Championships. The final rounds of the tournament will take place at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The Blue Devils will face the winner of Sunday's match between Virginia and Wake Forest on Friday, May 21 at 12 noon.