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Friday May 20th

No. 13 UNC men's tennis opens dual-match season with 7-0 sweep of Bucknell

<p>Senior Henry Lieberman serves the ball during a match against Bucknell University at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. The Heels won 7-0.</p>
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Senior Henry Lieberman serves the ball during a match against Bucknell University at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. The Heels won 7-0.

The No. 13 North Carolina men’s tennis team opened its 2022 dual match season by sweeping Bucknell, 7-0, at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center on Sunday afternoon.

What happened?

The Tar Heels opened up with a strong performance in doubles, with both teams winning their matches, 6-2. The ITA Collegiate No. 20 doubles pair of UNC sophomore Logan Zapp and first-year Casey Kania defeated Bucknell’s Tim Zelikovsky and Carlos Carvalho. Senior Henry Lieberman and sophomore Peter Murphy ousted Bucknell’s Ink Chen and Nicholas Grunig.

The dominance continued into singles play, with the Tar Heels winning all of their respective matches and not dropping a single set. Senior Brian Cernoch, ranked 60th in ITA Collegiate singles, torched both his sets 6-0 against Bucknell’s Nick Mueller. Junior Mark Dillon cruised to a win against Carvalho, winning in straight sets and only dropping one game.

Murphy decisively bested Grunig 6-1 and 6-2 to notch UNC’s fourth point in the match’s best of seven. Moments later, Zapp defeated Zelikovsky in straight sets, including a 6-0 second set.

Senior Mac Kiger and Lieberman both eked out a win in their second games, with Kiger beating Michael Owen 7-5 and Lieberman having to play a tiebreaker set against Chen. Lieberman took set one 6-3, but found himself trailing Chen by two games in the second set. Lieberman battled back to tie the set at 6-6, ultimately winning the tiebreaker set 9-7.

Who stood out? 

Both doubles teams showed promise as they comfortably won their respective matches. Although Kiger and Lieberman did not win their matches as handily as Cernoch, Dillon, Murphy and Zapp, they demonstrated their ability to handle pressure in deuce and tiebreaker sets. 

When was it decided?

North Carolina officially secured the match with Murphy’s win over Grunig, but the doubles matches and first few singles matches from Cernoch and Dillon indicated that the Tar Heels simply outmatched the Bison.

Why does it matter?

After the departure of stars William Blumberg, Josh Peck, Simon Soendergaard and Rinky Hijikata, a combination of veteran experience and younger talent has stepped up this season. The Tar Heels’ dominance of unranked teams is a good sign, as they will inevitably face stronger competition next weekend when Northwestern, Arizona State and No. 6 Ohio State visit Chapel Hill for the ITA Kickoff Weekend. 

Ohio State boasts three singles players ranked in the top 25, including No. 5 Matej Vocel. Moreover, the top two doubles pairs in college tennis don the scarlet and gray — Robert Cash and Matej Vocel, along with Justin Boulais and James Trotter. Cash and Vocel are coming off a perfect fall season, with a 14-0 record and titles at the ITA Men’s All-American Championships and ITA National Fall Championships. The runners-up? Their teammates, Boulais and Trotter.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will host the ITA Kickoff Weekend, playing Northwestern this Saturday, Jan. 29 at 12:30 p.m. The winner of that match will play either Arizona State or Ohio State.

@danielhwei

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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