Starting today, former Vol Rhyne Williams will play in one of the most prestigious events of his young career.
Williams was granted one of five wild cards into qualifying at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. He faces ATP world No. 109 Marsel Ilhan of Turkey in the opening round Tuesday evening.
With two wins, Williams would advance to the main draw, which features the top 10 players in the world. The Knoxville native is currently ranked No. 427, a career best.
Indian Wells is one of the oldest ATP Masters series events in the open era, and Williams will be making his first appearance in the qualifying draw. He has played in an ATP Masters event twice before, accepting wild cards into the Cincinnati Masters qualifying in 2008 and 2011. He also played in the US Open qualifying last year.
Williams' highest ranked win of his career so far is a 6-4, 6-4 win against then-No. 124 Rik De Voest of South Africa in the first round of 2011 US Open qualifying. He also has a victory over former US Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri.
In Canada: In a vastly different climate, Vols four-time All-American John-Patrick Smith will be competing in a vastly different tournament this week.
Smith is seeded seventh in singles at the Gatineau Futures, a $15,000 event. He faces fellow Aussie Mark Verryth in the opening round. The highest ranked player in the tournament is No. 253 Vincent Millot of France; Smith is currently No. 412.
In doubles, Smith is playing for the first time with Devin Britton, the 2009 NCAA singles champion from Mississippi. They are the tournament's top seeds and play unranked Nathaniel Gorham and Maximilian Wilde in the first round today. Smith is 8-1 in doubles this year, having won back-to-back $50,000 Challengers in Australia with John Peers.