DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke men’s tennis team held a 3-0 advantage on Friday afternoon, but Clemson rallied for the final four decisions of the match to come away with a 4-3 victory inside Ambler Tennis Stadium. Securing the match for the Tigers (15-13, 5-7 ACC) was Robert Dudley with a comeback three set tiebreaker victory against senior Daniel McCall on court five.
The No. 64 Blue Devils (11-13, 4-7 ACC) jumped out to a 3-0 advantage Friday with the doubles point and singles triumphs by senior Josh Levine and sophomore Nicolas Alvarez, but Clemson took the final four matches.
“It was a great college tennis match,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “It was exciting. I really enjoyed it up until the last point. It was pretty cool to see it come down to a senior playing out a whole third set for the win. Congrats to Clemson. I thought they fought well and played some really good tennis at the end.”
Duke captured the doubles point with victories on courts two and three. It was the fifth time in the last eight matches the Blue Devils had won doubles. Friday on court two, McCall and freshman Jason Lapidus breezed past Alex Favrot and Daffra Sanon, 6-1. With the match tied 1-1, the Duke duo won the last five contests for the victory. McCall and Lapidus are now 9-7 overall and 4-6 in league play.
The Blue Devils finished the point on court three with a late break by Levine and freshman Catalin Mateas leading to a 6-4 victory against Dudley and Austin Ansari. Duke turned a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 advantage, only to have Clemson reply with three straight wins to go up 4-3. From there, however, Duke held, broke and held to win. It was the first match of the year together for Levine and Mateas.
The match on court one between Duke Alvarez and junior TJ Pura against Clemson’s Luke Johnson and Christian Harris went unfinished with the Tigers leading 4-3.
“Doubles was really good,” Smith added. “I thought it all started with Jason and Dan. They were just shot out of a cannon. They played awesome. They had really good energy and played with a lot of passion.”
In singles, the Blue Devils made it a 2-0 advantage as Levine continued his strong start to Senior Weekend, downing Ansari 6-2, 6-1 on court four. Levine was tied 2-2 in the opening set before going on a nine game winning streak to end the first set and take a commanding 5-0 lead in the second. Levine lifted his overall record to 16-12 and 6-3 in league play.
“Josh did a great job getting off quickly,” Smith said. “He had a really good day in singles and doubles.”
Duke extended the advantage to 3-0 on court one, where No. 22 Alvarez defeated No. 117 Favrot, 6-2, 6-2. Alvarez breezed through the first set, leading 3-0 and 4-1. In the second set, the match was tied 2-2 before Alvarez broke and did not drop a game in the remainder of the match. Alvarez ups his overall record to 16-14 and 5-5 against ACC opponents.
“He’s building momentum,” Smith said of Alvarez. “I think this match was a continuation of his last match, Saturday against Wake Forest. I think that victory gave him a lot of confidence. Today was just more of the same. Mentally he was really good. He’s starting to get on track at the right time.”
The Tigers started their rally on court three, where Sanon defeated Pura, 6-1, 6-4. Sanon led 2-1 in the opening set and registered six straight wins to go up 2-0 in the second set. Pura got a game back and then trailed 5-1 before a hold, break and hold brought it to a 5-4 deficit in the second set. Sanon replied with a victory to end the match. Pura dips to 12-15 overall and 5-6 in the ACC.
Clemson made it a 3-2 deficit with Harris’ 7-5, 6-2 victory against Lapidus on court six. In the first set, the two were tied at every point through five, when Harris broke and held for the win. The second set had Harris jump out to a 4-0 advantage before ending the match. Lapidus was playing the first singles match of the spring.
Court two had Clemson even the match at 3-3 overall with Johnson defeating Mateas 7-5, 7-5. Mateas took an early 3-0 lead in the first set before Johnson ran off three straight wins to even the action. The two were tied at 4-4 and 5-5 before a break and hold gave Johnson the set. The second set was tied at points one through five before a break and hold by Johnson ended the action. Mateas drops to 14-9 overall and 4-6 against ACC opponents.
Clinching the decision for the Tigers was Dudley, with a 2-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) triumph on court five against McCall. The opening set was even at 2-2 before McCall went on a four game run to secure it. The second set had Dudley sneak out to 3-1 and 4-2 advantages before McCall won three consecutive games to go up 5-4. Dudley answered with a win to knot the set at 5-5. The two split the next two games and headed to the tiebreaker. Dudley went from a 1-1 tie to a 4-1 advantage. McCall got it to two points at 5-3, but Dudley won the final two for the win. In the third set, McCall fell behind 3-0 before a hold, break, hold series brought him even at 3-3 overall. The two were then tied at 4-4, 5-5 and 6-6 to force a deciding tiebreaker. Once in the tiebreaker, the two were even at 1-1 before Dudley went up 4-1. McCall got a point back to trail 4-2. Dudley regained the three point lead at 5-2, but McCall won the next three to even the tiebreaker at 5-5. Dudley rebounded again with the final two points to win the match. McCall falls to 8-12 and 2-4 in league play.
“I thought Dan did a great job,” Smith said. “He got down 3-0 and Dudley was playing really well. Dan hung in there. Our team supported Dan really well. It’s one of those things where a point or two different and we feel amazing. It just didn’t happen.”
Duke hosts No. 5 North Carolina at 1 p.m. Sunday to cap the regular season.
Clemson 4, #64 Duke 3
April 15, 2016 at Ambler Tennis Stadium (Durham, N.C.)
1. #22 Nicolas Alvarez (DU) def. #117 Alex Favrot (CU) 6-2, 6-2
2. Luke Johnson (CU) def. Catalin Mateas (DU) 7-5, 7-5
3. Daffra Sanon (CU) def. TJ Pura (DU) 6-1, 6-4
4. Josh Levine (DU) def. Austin Ansari (CU) 6-2, 6-1
5. Robert Dudley (CU) def. Daniel McCall (DU) 2-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-5)
6. Christian Harris (CU) def. Jason Lapidus (DU) 7-5, 6-2
1. Nicolas Alvarez/TJ Pura (DU) vs. Luke Johnson/Christian Harris (CU) 3-4, unfinished
2. Jason Lapidus/Daniel McCall (DU) def. Alex Favrot/Daffra Sanon (CU) 6-1
3. Catalin Mateas/Josh Levine (DU) def. Robert Dudley/Austin Ansari (CU) 6-4
Clemson 15-13, 5-7 ACC
Duke 11-13, 4-7 ACC; National ranking #64
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (4,1,3,6,2,5)
Official: Matthew Dolge