Men’s tennis splits against Tar Heels, Blue Devils

Senior Marcus McDaniel celebrates alongside fellow senior Keshav Chopra after the two beat Alabama’s No. 25 ranked duo of Filip Planinsek and Andrii Zimnokh, 6-3. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

After sweeping the homestand against the University of North Carolina (UNC) Wilmington Seahawks and the Mercer University Bears on Saturday, Feb. 24 to remain undefeated at home, Tech’s men’s tennis program traveled to North Carolina for their first Atlantic Coast Conference matchups (ACC) this past weekend. The ranked No. 37 Jackets took the courts against the No. 48 UNC Chapel Hill Tar Heels on Friday, March 1 and would challenge the No. 11 Duke University Blue Devils on Sunday, March 3. Both the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils bested the Jackets over the last several seasons, but the Jackets look to turn the tides on their North Carolina conference rivals. Tech has split their  ranked matchups so far — a sweep on the North Carolina trip would put the Jackets up 4-2 against ranked opponents and spark their conference season at a 2-0 start.

Headlined by the Jackets’ No. 32 pairing of seniors Keshav Chopra and Marcus McDaniel, doubles play kicked off Friday’s play versus UNC Chapel Hill with Chopra and McDaniel against sophomore Benjamin Kittay and graduate student Phillip Jordan on the first court. The second court hosted Tech’s freshmen Krish Arora and Richard Biagiotti versus UNC’s graduate student Karl Poling and sophomore Will Jansen, while Tech senior Andres Martin and freshman Owen Demuth took the third court against freshman Patrick Schoen and senior Peter Murphy. Chopra and McDaniel traded blows with their UNC opponents on the first court, while UNC overpowered Tech on the second and third court to win the doubles point. Martin and DeMuth dropped their set 2-6 to Murphy and Schoen, while Jansen and Poling defeated Biagiotti and Arora 3-6 to clinch the Tar Heels’ doubles point. The first court matchup was unfinished, with Chopra and McDaniel down 4-5.

UNC boasts a powerful singles platoon — five players rank within the top 110 singles as of Feb. 20.  However, none rank higher than Tech’s No. 22 senior Martin. Martin proved his ranking with 6-4 and 6-3 set victories against No. 67 Jansen to even the match total at 1-1. Schoen retook the lead for the Tar Heels soon after by defeating Arora on the fifth court in 4-6 and 2-6 sets. 

An instant classic began to arise as the third court entered the third set following No. 102 McDaniel bounced back from a 3-6 first set to take the second 6-2 over No. 110 Jordan. On the second court, Chopra took his first set 6-2 against No. 99 Kittay.  Junior Rohan Sachdev won the first set 6-3 versus graduate student and No. 84 Will Peters on the sixth court. The second sets on the second and sixth courts were caught in tiebreakers. Jordan paced McDaniel in the third set 1-6 to put the Tar Heels up 3-1, but both Chopra and Sachdev won their tiebreakers, 7-4 and 7-3 respectively. 

Tied 3-3, the match turned to the fourth court. Tech’s Biagiotti bounced back from dropping the first set, 4-6, to his No. 65 opponent Poling by overwhelming him in the second set in a 6-1 victory. The third set saw Biagiotti hold a 5-4 lead before Poling broke serve and held his own for a 6-5 lead. Biagiotti evened the match to 6-6. However, Poling caught fire during the tiebreaker, winning all seven points to clinch the victory for the UNC Tar Heels, as the Jackets narrowly fell 3-4.

The Jackets continued to struggle in doubles action against the Duke Blue Devils on Sunday, March 3, as Sachdev and sophomore Elias Shokry dropped a 2-6 set against senior Faris Khan and sophomore Teddy Truwit. Although Chopra and McDaniel took their set 6-2 over redshirt senior Garrett Johns and sophomore Pedro Rodenas, the No. 21 Duke pairing of graduate students Michael Heller and Andrew Zhang claimed a tough 5-7 set over Arora and Martin.

This would be the only point the Blue Devils won. Arora won swiftly against his sixth court opponent, junior Jake Krug, in 6-2 and 6-4 sets, and Biagiotti won the fourth court against junior Connor Krug in 6-3 and 6-2 sets. After dropping the first set 4-6, Martin claimed the next singles victory over No. 64 Johns with a 6-2 and 6-1 finish on the first court. 

Sachdev dropped his first set on the fifth court 2-6 but returned strongly to win the match against freshman Alexander Visser in 6-3 and 6-4 sets. In no time, the Jackets won the match 4-1.

The remaining matches completed a 6-1 victory for Tech, as McDaniel defeated Zhang 6-4 in the third set and Chopra defeated Duke’s No. 31 ranked Pedro Rodenas with a pair of 7-5 sets.

The Jackets (10-3) return to North Carolina this weekend to improve their current conference record (1-1) against two ranked opponents in the No. 3 Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the No. 22 NC State Wolfpack. These two ACC matchups will help build a strong conference record.