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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. 

Men's Tennis News Update (1/22/13)

The new ITA team rankings were released Tuesday, and the Vols (7-0) held steading at No. 19 after rolling off seven shutout victories against unranked opponents to start the year. New individual rankings will not come out until next month.

In other national news, TennisRecruiting.net released its national team signing class rankings of the new year Monday. The Vols signed five-star recruit Sean Karl of Brentwood, Tenn., and top-flight junior Markus Kerner of Tallinn, Estonia, during the early signing period, and that was more than enough to be listed at No. 10 nationally. The recruiting service also wished Karl a speedy recovery from cancer. Karl continues to undergo chemo treatments in his battle against Ewing sarcoma. 

Plus, some stories over the weekend from the Knoxville News Sentinel:

Williams Narrowly Misses Major Upset in Australia

Former Vol Rhyne Williams was knocking on the door of his first Grand Slam and top-50 victory but could not quite close the deal Tuesday at the Australian Open.

Williams held two match points in the fourth set but lost 2-6, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (12), 6-1 in the opening round to 25th-seeded Florian Mayer of Germany in the first round at Melbourne Park. 

In an epic 26-point tiebreaker in the fourth set, Williams created a pair of match points against Mayer but the veteran managed to get out of trouble and pulled away in the final set. It was Williams' first true five-set match. He had played a four setter against Tim Smyczek in December to win the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff.

John-Patrick Smith also played his opening round on Tuesday, losing to Portugal's Joao Sousa for the second time in two weeks. With the home crowd backing him, the Aussie wild card could not dig out of an early hole, losing 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.

Smith is still scheduled to play doubles this week with John Peers.

"It was a tough match ... it wasn't the game I wanted but it was still a great experience and something I can learn from," Smith told the AAP. "I didn't serve great but the good thing is I've still got doubles and mixed coming up so it's not the end of the world."

Happy Birthday - Jan. 11: Dixon, Malik Jackson, Reese

On Jan. 11, we wish Happy Birthday to senior runner Breon Dixon as well as sophomore tennis player Hunter Reese.

Breon Dixon  Hunter Reese

Also celebrating is former All-SEC Vols football defensive lineman Malik Jackson, who is prepping for his first NFL playoff game this weekend with the Denver Broncos. 

Australian Open Draw Released

Australian Open Singles Draw

Former Tennessee All-Americans Rhyne Williams and John-Patrick Smith learned their opponents for next week's Australian Open.

The draw was released Thursday evening (Wednesday in Melbourne, Australia). Both Vols received main draw wild cards and are in the third quarter of the 128-man tournament, meaning they should play their opening matches Tuesday. 

Williams, who got his wild card for winning the USTA Wild Card Playoff in December, takes on 25th-seeded Florian Mayer of Germany. Smith was added to the draw late last week by his home nation and takes on Portugal's Joao Souza in the first round. Smith lost to Souza in three sets in the final round of qualifying last week at the ATP event in Sydney. 

This will be Smith's Grand Slam singles debut, having played doubles in last year's Australian Open. It will be the first time multiple Tennessee players have been in a Grand Slam main draw since associate head coach Chris Woodruff and Doug Flach both played in the 1997 Wimbledon.

Tennys Sandgren plays the second round of Australian Open qualifying late tonight against Alex Bogomolov.

Sandgren Wins Opening Qualifying Match at Australian Open

Tennys Sandgren made his first step to join his teammates in the main draw of the Australian Open, winning his opening qualifying match 6-4, 6-4 Wednesday against Italy's Potito Starace at Melbourne Park. 

Sandgren now needs two wins to qualify for the main draw field of 128. He faces Russia's Alex Bogomolov Jr. next. 

Rhyne Williams and John-Patrick Smith, who received wild cards from the USTA and Tennis Australia respectively, are training in Melbourne to get ready for the first Grand Slam of 2013. It will be Smith's singles debut in a Grand Slam. Williams qualified for the US Open last year, so next week will mark his second major in his first trip Down Under.

The Pro Vols on Twitter:
Rhyne Williams: @RhyneWilliams
John-Patrick Smith: @jpatsmith
Tennys Sandgren: @TennysSandgren

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