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Thursday September 23rd

Blumberg, Cernoch add 'fuel to the fire' to guide UNC men's tennis to 4-3 win over VT

First-year tennis player Rinky Hijikata prepares to serve the ball against Vazha Shubladze and Diego Padilha of Georgia State during men's doubles in the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. Hijikata made his debut on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020.
Buy Photos Then first-year tennis player Rinky Hijikata prepares to serve the ball against Vazha Shubladze and Diego Padilha of Georgia State during men's doubles in the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. Then Carolina men's tennis team topped Virginia Tech 4-3 this past Sunday, staying undefeated.

In its first match following the ITA Kickoff Weekend event, the No. 2 UNC men’s tennis team narrowly defeated Virginia Tech on Sunday — winning two of three doubles matches and three of six singles matches for a 4-3 overall win and continuing the team’s undefeated start to the season.

And it's hard to ignore fifth-year senior William Blumberg’s contributions to the team’s success. Blumberg is the No. 2 player in the country and has been the UNC team captain for the past two years. He is also highly decorated, including eight All-America selections and the honor of ITA Senior Player of the Year in 2020.

“It’s incredible for all of our fifth-year seniors,” head coach Sam Paul said about Blumberg and his fellow seniors, who received an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The leadership for the younger guys and the play is incredible.”

During Sunday’s matches, Blumberg defeated Virginia Tech senior Carlo Donato in two sets. But the day overall was not perfect for Blumberg, as he and his doubles partner, junior Brian Cernoch, lost their matchup, the only doubles loss for the Tar Heels on Sunday afternoon.

“The doubles match was tough,” Blumberg said. “That is completely on me. My energy and readiness wasn’t up to where I should have been, and I take full responsibility for the loss. This will only add fuel to the fire for us and will help us along the way.”

Despite the disappointing loss for Blumberg and Cernoch, North Carolina still pulled off a win against the Hokies. Blumberg and Cernoch made up for their doubles defeat, both contributing to the team’s success by winning their singles matches.

Blumberg's and Cernoch's singles performances showed the dominance they each possess when playing their best. Blumberg's win over Donato came at a score of 6-2, 6-1, while Cernoch defeated the Hokies' Alex Ribeiro by a slightly closer score of 6-2, 6-3.

“Doubles was obviously disappointing,” Cernoch said. “Our mindset going into singles was that they beat us with energy in doubles, and we weren’t going to let that happen in singles.”

The Tar Heels will play again the weekend of Feb. 12, when they attend the ITA National Team Indoor Championship in Champaign, Illinois. Both Blumberg and Cernoch will be attending this event, hoping to maintain their singles strengths while improving upon their doubles weaknesses.

In his last year as a Tar Heel, Blumberg has his sights set on winning the Indoor Championship and more. Though he is bound to make a splash when he goes pro, he said that hasn't affected his concentration on the team.

“For now, I’m just focused on winning a national championship," Blumberg said.

As the team’s only junior, Cernoch has big shoes to fill once Blumberg and other notable seniors, including No. 41 Benjamin Sigouin and No. 100 Josh Peck, move on. He seems up to the challenge though, having been named an All-American last year and ending last season ranked No. 13 in doubles.

“I’m pretty excited,” Cernoch said. “I learned a lot from Will. I’m excited to continue that momentum.” 

The UNC men’s tennis team has a lot of work to do to maintain its No. 2 ranking and undefeated status, but performers like Blumberg and Cernoch will try their hardest to keep the Tar Heels at the top.


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