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'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Men’s Tennis climbs to No. 3 behind key wins

A look back at Wake Forest’s seven wins since Jan. 27
Isabella Parolini
Wake Forest Men’s Tennis groups up before taking on No. 9 Columbia. The Demon Deacons would defeat the Lions for a key top-10 win.

Wake Forest has climbed to the No. 3 spot on the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Division 1 men’s tennis rankings, marking a season-high in ranking. Driven by their six starting players, the Demon Deacons have recorded a 5-3 record against ranked opponents, reaching the semifinals of the ITA National Indoor Tournament in the process.

Ranked No. 17 during the week of Jan. 28, Wake Forest entered the ITA Kickoff Weekend tournament at Chapel Hill’s Chewing Tennis Center seeded second behind No. 16 North Carolina. This was an especially challenging and important tournament: to qualify for the ITA National Team Indoor Championship, each team must win their regional indoor tournament. All four teams in Wake Forest’s regional bracket reached the championship in 2023, yet only one would return this season.

To start the tournament, the Demon Deacons defeated No. 20 Florida on Jan. 27 — overcoming a winless 0-4 record against the Gators since 2001 — with wins from No. 18 DK Suresh Ekambaram/Holden Koons (6-2) and Luciano Tacchi/Luca Pow (6-3), putting Wake Forest ahead 1-0. In singles, Koons (6-3, 6-2), Tacchi (6-4, 7-5) and Pow (6-3, 6-3) won their matches to clinch a 4-1 victory.

The following afternoon, the Demon Deacons faced Illinois in the finals. In the doubles, Tacchi/Pow (6-4) and Ekambaram/Koons (7-6[4]) continued their winning ways to notch the doubles point. Although No. 55 Karlis Ozolins upset Wake Forest’s No. 7 Filippo Moroni (6-3, 6-4) to start the singles, the Demon Deacons quickly renewed their lead. A win from Pow (6-4, 7-6[4]), an upset victory from No. 54 Ekambaram over No. 46 Hunter Heck (7-5, 7-5) and a victory from Koons (7-6[4], 6-3) sealed a 4-1 victory over Illinois. With that, Wake Forest qualified for the indoor championships for the third consecutive season.

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The Demon Deacons, having improved to No. 13 the week after, promptly returned to their winning ways. They started a doubleheader on Feb. 2 by sweeping UNC Greensboro and upsetting then-No. 9 Columbia (5-2). Of note, Wake Forest’s Matthew Thomson upset Columbia’s No. 106 Ishaan Ravinchander (6-1, 6-4), and Pow clinched another upset win with his fourth consecutive singles victory (6-1, 6-4).

Two days after their doubleheader, Wake Forest traveled to play No. 1 Ohio State in Columbus. Despite suffering a 6-1 defeat, Koons claimed two victories. Partnering with Ekambaram, they defeated Andrew Lutschaunig/Justin Boulais (6-2), helping them jump from No. 18 to No. 7.

Koons finished the day undefeated, with a comeback win (4-6, 6-3, 10-4) in the last match.

Now jumping up to No. 9, the Demon Deacons bounced back to defeat No. 4 South Carolina later that week. Wins from No. 7 Ekambaram/Koons (6-3) and Pow/Tacchi (6-3) secured the doubles point. No. 23 Moroni clinched the upset victory by defeating No. 50 Toby Samuel (5-7, 7-5, 6-3), recording his third win as Wake Forest’s top singles player.

Ranked as No. 6 entering the National Team Indoor Championship, Wake Forest had gained 11 spots since they defeated Illinois a few weeks earlier. Against No. 16 Michigan (4-1), Thomson upset No. 125 Patorn Hanchaikul (6-3, 6-3), and No. 49 Ekambaram defeated No. 48 Jacob Bickersteth (6-2, 7-6[9]) to secure their spot in the quarterfinals. The next day, against No. 14 Arizona, a clutch victory from Ekambaram/Koons over No. 6 Colton Smith/Jay Friend (7-6[9]) secured the doubles point. Three singles wins, including an upset victory for Thomson over No. 46 Gustaf Strom (6-3, 6-1), put the Deacs in the semifinals.

In the semifinals, No. 2 Texas Christian University (TCU) ended the Demon Deacons’ tournament. While they clinched the doubles point, powered by a ranked win from Ekambaram/Koons over No. 8 Sebastian Gorzny/Pedro Vives and a decisive victory from Moroni/Thomson, TCU stormed ahead in five of six singles matches to reach the finals.

The season is far from over. The Demon Deacons will play Georgia on Feb. 26 and Virginia, its first conference opponent, on March 1. Although Wake Forest currently boasts the best ranking in the ACC, much can change before the ACC Championships on April 17.

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