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Williams Wins First Challenger Title


Former Vol Rhyne Williams dropped only one set on his way to winning his first Challenger-level singles title last week at the $100,000 Challenger of Dallas. 

Williams rolled past several American tennis veterans before defeating former U.S. Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri 7-5, 6-3 in Saturday's final round. Williams also reached the doubles final, where he and Tennys Sandgren lost in a deciding tiebreaker. 

With the win, Williams bagged 100 ATP tour points and moved up to a career-best No. 159 in the World Tour Rankings. He has no points to defend for the rest of the month. 

Williams, a two-time All-American for UT, is the second active touring pro from Tennessee to have won a singles Challenger title. John-Patrick Smith won the $50,000 Winnetka Challenger in Illinois last year. 

Men's Tennis Team Adds Honorary New Member

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The men's tennis team had a special guest at the courts earlier this week, ceremonially inducting 9-year-old Ryan Breedlove to the team. They held a signing ceremony in the team room and gave Ryan and his family a tour of Goodfriend Tennis Center. Ryan is currently fighting  a form of eye cancer and 13Q syndrome. 

For more photos of the day, check out Facebook.

Vols Ranked 14th in National Tennis Poll

The Vols climbed up another spot to No. 14 in the ITA national tennis team rankings Tuesday evening.

Tennessee (10-0) recorded its 10th win last weekend by upending 25th-ranked Illinois on the road for the second consecutive weekend. In the first month of the season, the Vols have shown considerable progress from a year ago. In 2012, the Vols did not record their 10th win until March 23. 

New individual rankings will be released next week. Mikelis Libietis is No. 9 in singles while Hunter Reese is No. 40 and likely to climb thanks to a 11-0 start to the spring. Only one of the Vols' three doubles teams, Libietis and Jarryd Chaplin, have been playing this spring and are currently ranked 26th.

The Vols have a difficult road test this weekend against No. 9 Duke and Wake Forest.

ON TOUR: Williams, Smith Advance in Respective Tourneys

Former Vols Rhyne Williams and John-Patrick Smith both won their opening-round matches at their respective tournaments to start the week on the Challenger Tour.

At the $100,000 Challenger of Dallas, Williams defeated former Texas A&M star Austin Krajicek 7-5, 6-2 in the first round Monday. He'll face fourth-seeded Rajeev Ram next.

Tennys Sandgren played his opening-round singles match Tuesday afternoon against Mischa Zverev, losing 6-3, 7-6 (5). He and Rhyne are set to play doubles later today. 

At the $50,000 West Lakes Challenger, Smith beat Andrea Arnaboldi 6-3, 7-6 (4) in his first round Tuesday. He'll face Stephane Robert next.

ON Tour: ATP Tour Rankings (2/4/13)

Here are the Vols' updated ATP Tour rankings as of Feb. 4, 2013. The Vols are listed by highest singles ranking first. The number in parenthesis denotes change from previous week.

Rhyne Williams
Singles: 191 (-1)
Doubles: 192 (+3)
Note: Off last week ... playing this week in the $100,000 Challenger of Dallas, playing wild card and former Texas A&M standout Austin Krajicek in the opening round ... Playing doubles with Tennys Sandgren ... Now in the top 200 in both singles and doubles.

Tennys Sandgren
Singles: 217 (+2)
Doubles: 156 (+4)
Note: Off last week ... playing this week in the $100,000 Challenger of Dallas, taking on German Mischa Zverev in the opening round ... Playing doubles with Rhyne Williams ... Singles ranking is a career best.

John-Patrick Smith
Singles: 238 (+2)
Doubles: 96 (+2)
Note: Defended his doubles title at the $50,000 Burnie Challenger last week in Tazmania last week ... Staying in Australia for one more tournament, the $50,000 West Lakes Challenger ... Last week reached top 100 in doubles for first time.

Matteo Fago
Singles: 851 (+15)
Doubles: 1117 (+471)
Note: Has started the year out playing in Israel, reaching a doubles final in Eilat and reaching the second round of singles at two events ... Pulled out of qualifying in Israel last week ... Doubles ranking up to its highest mark since 2007.

ON TOUR: Smith Defends Title at Burnie Challenger

John-Patrick Smith won two more matches with Ruan Roelofse of South Africa on Saturday to retain the doubles title at the $50,000 Burnie Challenger in Tasmania.

Smith and Roelofse, playing together for the first time, wrapped up the tournament with a victory over over Sam Groth and Matt Reid 6-4, 6-7 (5), [10-6] in the semifinals and top-seeded Brydan Klein and Dane Propoggia 6-2, 6-2 in the title match.

Smith's first Challenger doubles title came a year ago at Burnie with John Peers. He now has six career doubles trophies at the Challenger level since 2012.

Next Week: Rhyne Williams and Tennys Sandgren will be in their first action on the U.S. mainland next week at the $100,000 Challenger of Dallas. Smith, meanwhile, will stay another week in Australia for a final Challenger event.

Vols Move to 15th in ITA Rankings

After weekend victories over Illinois and North Carolina, the Vols (9-0) moved up four spots to No. 15 nationally in the ITA national men's tennis rankings. 

The team qualified for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships for the fifth consecutive season by winning the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. With one weekend to go before the seeding is decided for the national tournament, the Vols are projected to be the No. 14 seed. They play Illinois on the road again this weekend in a non-conference matchup.

Happy Birthday - Jan. 28: Bergeron, Collins

On Jan. 28, we send Happy Birthday wishes to associate baseball head coach Greg Bergeron and tennis senior John Collins.

Greg Bergeron  John Collins

Happy Birthday - Jan. 24: Haralson, Holloway, JP Smith

A big day for birthdays in terms of greats at Tennessee. Celebrating on Jan. 24, is legendary quarterback and baseball star Condredge Holloway who still serves as an Assistant Athletic Director in the department.


Also celebrating on Jan. 24 is Parys Haralson of the Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers. Haralson was drafted out of Tennessee in 2006 after a standout career with the Vols. 


Vols tennis star John-Patrick Smith, who was named the 2011 SEC Athlete of the Year also turns 24 on Jan. 24.



ON TOUR: Williams Rolls to Start Maui Challenger

Former Vol Rhyne Williams returned to action Tuesday for the first time since narrowly missing his first win at the Australian Open, cruising through his first round at the $50,000 Maui Challenger. 

Williams defeated 2009 NCAA singles champion Devin Britton of Ole Miss 6-0, 6-1 to move on to the second round, where he will face a very familiar opponent: Tim Smyczek. The two played a memorable four-setter in December at the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff, with Williams winning to earn straight entry into the Australian Open. Smyczek went on to qualify for the main draw in Melbourne and won a match in the main draw.

Tennys Sandgren will be back on the courts Wednesday. He plays his first-round match against Blaz Rola, the current No. 1 for Ohio State who could well be in the top 300 professionally while competing in his junior year for the Buckeyes. Sandgren and Williams will also play doubles together.

John-Patrick Smith wrapped up his Australian Open stay last week by reaching the second round of doubles and losing a close one in the opening round of mixed doubles. He will start play next week at the $50,000 Burnie Challenger. 

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