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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

Happy Birthday - Jan. 7: Fickey, Jeter, Stokes

Jan. 7 is a big day for birthdays among Tennessee student-athletes. Celebrating are tennis sophomore Brandon Fickey, senior volleyball player Kayla Jeter and basketball sophomore Jarnell Stokes.

Brandon Fickey  Kayla Jeter  Jarnell Stokes

Smith Receives Australian Open Wild Card

Former Vol John-Patrick Smith was given one of the final main draw wild cards to the Australian Open, Tennis Australia announced Saturday. 

Smith will make his Grand Slam singles debut at Melbourne Park, an appearance that will net him at least $27,000, more than half the prize money he made in all of 2012. Currently No. 244 in the ATP World Tour Rankings, Smith is coming off a season in which he captured to singles titles, including his first at the Challenger level.

Smith will join former teammate Rhyne Williams in the Australian Open field of 128. Williams, ranked No. 190, earned the USTA's wild card by winning an eight-man playoff in December. 

Tennys Sandgren is set to play qualifying singles at the Australian Open. The 2011 UT All-American was a semifinalist at the USTA playoff that Williams won.

Both Smith and Williams are currently in the third round of qualifying at the Apia International Sydney, an ATP 250 event. They each won two straight-set matches Saturday. 

ON TOUR: Smith Gets First Doubles Win in ATP Event

Former SEC Athlete of the Year John-Patrick Smith collected his first doubles victory in an ATP event Wednesday at the Brisbane International. 

Smith and frequent doubles partner John Peers were put in the draw as alternates and made the most of their opportunity, defeating Americans Brian Baker and Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-4. The collegiate duo faces singles standouts Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori on Thursday.

Smith and Rhyne Williams both lost in the first round of singles qualifying late last week, but Smith and Peers stayed in Brisbane and got the nod to play doubles after the Czech Republic's Radek Stepanek had to withdraw because of an eye infection.

Williams will play qualifying at the ATP Sydney event this weekend.

ITA RANKINGS SET FOR THURSDAY RELEASE
The college tennis season is almost underway, with the Vols set to open the season at home Jan. 17 against Tennessee Tech. The ITA will release its first team rankings of the season, in addition to individual and regional rankings, on Thursday. Tennessee finished the 2012 season ranked 20th as a team and are returning all six starters in addition to adding senior John Collins and newcomers Bartosz Sawicki and Sebastian Yllera in January.

Smith Earns Spot in AO Playoff Semifinals



Tennis Australia: Smith through to play-off semifinals

Behind a solid returning performance on a hot afternoon, former Vol John-Patrick Smith advanced to the semifinals of the Australian Open Playoff in Melbourne Park.

Smith beat seventh-seeded Greg Jones 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 in Wednesday's quarterfinal to move just two matches away from securing a main draw wild card into his home Grand Slam. 

The match was closely contested, but Smith got the breaks when he needed them, serving out the victory on his first match point at 40-30. Jones was coming off a lengthy five-set win in his opening match, and that mileage started to play a factor as the match continued. 

"Coming in, I had to make a lot of returns on his serve," Smith told Tennis Australia's broadcasters after the match. "He has a big serve and probably hit a dozen aces. I haven't seen the stats. I just knew I had to make returns and had to get him moving."

Smith, seeded second, is the highest seed remaining in the tournament. In the semifinals, he will face the winner of the ongoing match between Matt Reid and junior champion Luke Saville.


Smith Set for AO Playoff Quarterfinals

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Former Vol John-Patrick Smith won his first career five-set match Monday to move into Wednesday's quarterfinals in the Australian Open Playoffs at Melbourne Park. 

Second-seeded Smith fought through a lull in the second set to breeze past 17-year-old Jay Andrijic 6-2, 7-6, 6-1 in a match that lasted about two hours. He now faces seventh-seeded Greg Jones on Wednesday in Australia, which will likely mean a Tuesday evening start time in the Eastern time zone.

Smith's consistency proved to be a difference maker on Monday against Andrijic. The winds picked up as the match wore on, but Smith broke Andrijic's serve seven times over the three sets and only dropped serve once.

Andrijic came back from 3-1 down the second set and eventually held serve for a 5-4 lead, but Smith won the last three games to retake the momentum. The third set went quickly as Smith reeled of six games in a row to advance to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row.

While Smith is in familiar territory, he told local media outlets he hardly feels like the same player he was a year ago. He has now completed a full year on the professional circuit and is now the sixth-ranked Australian. 

The winner of the 16-player tournament receives a main draw wild card into the Australian Open, Smith's home major. The four-time All-American hails from Townsville, Queensland, but he has based most of his professional training in Knoxville since turning pro in 2011.

Tennis Australia: JP powers into second round

Smith Starts Australian Open Playoffs Tonight

Former SEC Athlete of the Year John-Patrick Smith will compete for a wild card in his home Grand Slam starting today in the Australian Open Playoff at Melbourne Park.

Smith is seeded second of 16 Australian players competing for a main draw wild card into January's Australian Open. He faces 17-year-old Jay Andrijic on Monday at 10 a.m. to open the tournament. In Knoxville time (U.S. Eastern), the match starts Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern and will be streamed live by Tennis Australia for free here: Live Streaming

Since finishing his college career with the Vols in 2011, Smith has spent a majority of his professional career still based out of Knoxville and is the official touring pro of the Knoxville Racquet Club. As the sixth-ranked Australian, his return Down Under makes headlines. He was featured in today's story by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Smith has played in this tournament the last two years, reaching the quarterfinals last season. This time around, the tournament format for the men this time will be a best-of-5-set format in every round.

IN NORCROSS
Starting Friday, the USTA will host its Australian Open Wild Card Playoff, and former Vols Rhyne Williams and Tennys Sandgren both in the 8-man field. Williams has made the semifinals of that tournament the last two years, and it will be Sandgren's first appearance in the tournament in Norcross, Ga. Full match coverage, photos and video of that tournament will be available at utsports.com. 

ON TOUR: ATP Tour Rankings (11/19/12)

Here are the Vols' updated ATP Tour rankings as of Nov. 19, 2012. The Vols are listed by highest singles ranking first. The number in parenthesis denotes change from previous week.


Rhyne Williams

Singles: 192 (+25)

Doubles: 226 (+2)

Note: Ended season by cracking the top 200 for the first time in his career ... climbed 25 spots up the rankings by reaching his first career Challenger semifinal in Champaign, earning a strong win against American veteran Ryan Sweeting in the quarterfinals to do so ... 2012 season over, but could play the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff in December, as he has the last two years.  


Tennys Sandgren

Singles: 234 (+7)

Doubles: 163 (-1)

Note: Made it to the second round of the Champaign Challenger to end the season. His ranking of 234 is a career best ... 2012 tournament season over, but could play the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff in December.


John-Patrick Smith

Singles: 246 (0)

Doubles: 105 (0)

Note: Reached the quarterfinals of the Champaign Challenger to successfully defend his points from last year ... Made it to the doubles quarterfinals with John Peers and will enter 2013 about 30 points from becoming the 13th Vol in program history to entering the top 100 ... Likely to play the Australian Open Playoffs in Melbourne in December.


Matteo Fago

Singles: 878 (0)

Doubles: 1566 (+3)

Note: Off last week ... Off this week.


Adam Hubble

Singles: 1294 (+10)

Doubles: 194 (-4)

Note: Had to pull out of the Champaign Challenger with a knee injury to finish the season ... Off this week.

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