Former Vol John-Patrick Smith earned a straight-set victory at the Australian Open Playoffs to start his bid for a wild card into his home country's Grand Slam.
Smith brought an aggressive game to Melbourne Park on Tuesday morning, beating 19-year-old Maverick Banes 6-1, 6-3 to reach the round of 16.
The reigning SEC Athlete of the Year settled down quickly after getting broken in his first serving game, winning eight consecutive games to take the first set 6-1 and go ahead 2-0 in the second. He frequently approached the net when given the chance and kept Banes on the defensive behind the baseline.
"I'm always working on my game, trying to move forward a bit and transition better this year," Smith told Tennis Australia on court after the match. "Hopefully that will continue to go."
Smith literally has a tall task ahead of him in the round of 16 when he faces 6-foot-7 Chris Guccione. The big-serving lefty is the fourth seed in the tournament and is ranked No. 257 in the world.
Smith has beaten two top 300 players this year, both victories occurring in his November season finale at the JSM Challenger in Champaign, Ill.
"It was a good match, and I'm glad I get a chance at Guccione," Smith said. "Obviously, it'll be a tough match tomorrow, but I just gotta keep working hard and take my chances like today."
The winner of the tournament receives a wild card into the main draw of January's Australian Open. No Vol has played in a main draw of a Grand Slam since associate head coach Chris Woodruff made the round of 64 in the US Open in 2001.
Smith once again has the first match on court Wednesday. His meeting with Guccione begins at 10 a.m. local time, which is 6 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday. Live streaming video of the match will be available on Tennis Australia's website here.
Prior to the tournament, Tennis Australia ran this feature story about Smith's journey and tennis development through playing at Tennessee.
Prior to joining the Vols, Smith was among the most successful junior players in Australia -- and the world. He rose as high as No. 6 in the ITF junior world rankings, but Smith discusses how playing for the Vols prepared him for the pro circuit.