ATHENS, Ga. - Junior Henrique Cunha rallied from a first-set loss in singles to advance to the tournament quarterfinals for the third-straight year Friday in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships at the University of Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Friday's action also saw Cunha and sophomore Chris Mengel's run in the doubles tournament ended in the Round of 16 with a heartbreaking three-set loss.
Cunha, seeded fifth overall in the singles tournament, outlasted No. 40 Gonzalo Escobar of Texas Tech in three sets Friday morning following Escobar's upset of No. 12 Costin Paval of Oklahoma in the Round of 16. Cunha and Escobar traded breaks early in the first set of their contest, but Escobar broke serve again late to win by a 6-4 margin. However, Cunha responded with a 6-2 second-set victory to force a deciding set. The Duke junior then cruised to a 6-1 win in the third set to close out the match.
With the victory, Cunha advances to the singles quarterfinals for the third consecutive season, becoming the first player in Duke men's tennis history to do so. The Jaú, Brazil native also pushed the program single-season wins record to 41 and improved his career singles ledger to 117-25, moving him within one win of tying current head coach Ramsey Smith for the second-most career victories in school history.
Cunha will now face third-seeded Eric Quigley of Kentucky in Saturday's quarterfinal round at 12 p.m. Cunha sports a season record of 41-9 with a 26-8 mark against ranked opponents heading into the quarterfinal matchup, while Quigley is 51-6 overall on the season with wins against the No. 41, 18 and 13 ranked players in the nation through three rounds of the NCAA Singles Championship.
Later in the day Cunha was involved in another three-set affair, as he and Mengel took on fourth-seeded Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher of Stanford in the doubles Round of 16. Both teams held serve until late in the first set, with 16th-ranked Cunha and Mengel edging out the Cardinal duo in the tiebreaker, 7-3. The Blue Devils then used that momentum to jump out to a 3-0 advantage in the second set before Klahn and Thacher evened it up at 3-all on their way to a 6-4 win. In the deciding set, Cunha and Mengel continued to battle, but the Stanford tandem broke serve twice to post a 6-2 third-set victory.
Cunha and Mengel end their run in the doubles tournament with a season ledger of 18-10, including six victories over ranked doubles teams. They are the 12th tandem in program history to reach the NCAA Round of 16, with Cunha doing so in each of his three seasons at Duke. Cunha now owns a career record of 107-26 in doubles play, which ranks him fifth on Duke's all-time charts.
2012 NCAA Div. I Men's Tennis Singles and Doubles Championships May 23-28, 2012 at Athens, Ga. (Dan Magill Tennis Complex)
Singles - Round of 16 #5 Henrique Cunha (Duke) def. #40 Gonzalo Escobar (Texas Tech) 4-6, 6-2, 6-1