In a marquee matchup between two top-10 college tennis players, Duke’s nationally ranked No. 7 Henrique Cunha proved too much for Michigan’s nationally ranked No. 6 Evan King in a 7-5, 6-1 win during the Blue Devils’ 4-3 victory over the Wolverines.

The match was the third collegiate meeting between the two junior lefties, with Cunha taking the previous two as well. He is yet to drop a set in their meetings.

But this encounter appeared to be headed in a different direction after King took the initiative and broke the Blue Devil’s serve in the first game.

The Wolverine continued to limit his mistakes and trouble Cunha with a varried pace, employing many slices while attacking his opponent’s backhand.

Several key mistakes by Cunha aided King, and the raucous crowd that had gathered at the Varsity Tennis Center appeared to unnerve the Blue Devil from the start.

With Cunha serving at 4-0 down, King hit a sublime lob which appeared to nick the baseline but was quickly called out by Cunha. In response, the partisan crowd jeered in protest of the close call. The line judge — appearing to be somewhat swayed by the uproar — over-ruled the decision, drawing the ire of Cunha, whose play quickly changed.

The players each held serve, brining King to a 5-1 lead.

But that was as good as it would get for King, and the match slowly began to sway as Cunha’s forehand dictated the proceedings.

Relentless pressure from Cunha couldn’t be quelled by King. The Blue Devil constructed points and finished at the net with a number of volley winners.

The match was soon back on level terms, and Cunha simply did not miss.

“That guy (Cunha) just doesn’t miss and doesn’t give many free points, and you have to have the legs to stay with him and then be able to finish, and today, Evan didn’t have that,” said Michigan assistant coach Mark Merklein.

With his foot on the gas, Cunha would not let up, completing his first-set comeback, despite King’s effort, 7-5.

The second set began with King pressuring with all he had simply to win a point.

But the first two games of the set were as close as it was going to get at 1-1.

Then, Cunha seemingly left King behind. For every play King made, Cunha had the response.

Serving at 3-1, and down 15-30, King played a difficult out-wide serve, only to see it lethally returned for a down-the-line winner. A dejected King looked on in anguish, as he could do little to prevent the inevitable.

Fittingly, the match ended with an ace that left little doubt about who the better player was on the day.

“During the match, I didn’t really have the answer for what he could do because (King) wasn’t keeping the ball deep,” Merklein said.

“If he wins that match today, we could have won today, so that’s going to sting him pretty good. And I know he is going to work even harder than he was before, and we know what Evan needs to do to possibly be the national champion this year. I think he can do it, I really do, so I’m excited, but it was a tough loss.”

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