ON TOUR: Smith Captures First Challenger Singles Title

Former Vol John-Patrick Smith fought off two match points to capture his first Challenger singles title Saturday night in Winnetka, Ill.

In a week where he had to qualify to even make the tournament field, Smith beat three top 200 players along the way to winning the Winnetka Challenger. He rallied past sixth-seeded Ricardas Berankis 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the finals.

Smith's late comeback started in the seventh game of the final set where both players had their opportunities. With Berankis serving up 4-2, Smith converted on a break point to end a long momentum-swinging game to get back on serve. 

A few games later, Smith had to hold his nerves serving at 5-6. He fought off two match points in the game to hold and force a tournament-deciding tiebreaker. He took the first point off Berankis and rolled from there to win the tiebreaker 7-3 and win his first Challenger-level singles title. 

Smith has won three professional singles titles in the last year and eight doubles titles. He entered the tournament ranked No. 298 but should rise to about 215 in Monday's ATP world rankings. Former teammate Tennys Sandgren, ranked 289, will also get a boost after reaching his first Challenger quarterfinal this week. 

In terms of UT history, Smith is the first player to win a Challenger singles title since Chris Woodruff in 1996. 

Smith's bid for a title sweep fell short in doubles where he and former Baylor star John Peers lost 1-6, 6-2, [10-6] to Jeff Dadamo and Devin Britton a few hours later. Smith and Peers have won three Challenger titles together already this year. 

The Winnetka Challenger marks a break for Smith in his tournament schedule, but that hardly means he's finished with tennis. Smith is traveling to California to play World TeamTennis with the Orange County Breakers. Their three-week season starts Monday. 

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