Jan. 18, 2010
NORCROSS, Ga. -- Junior Boris Conkic did not know what to expect from himself at the SEC Coaches Indoor Championships.
He had practiced hard during the holidays, and the training in the days leading up to the tournament had been productive. Still, he had not played in a singles match since mid-October.
Mystery solved. Conkic was prepared to win it all.
Conkic defeated Georgia's Javier Garrapiz 7-5, 6-2 in the finals Monday to become the fifth Volunteer and the second in as many years to capture the singles title at the SEC Indoors.
In the four-day tournament, Conkic won six matches with three of them coming against ranked opponents. With the dual-match season less than a week away, he has already matched his win total of the entire fall season, improving his record to 12-4.
"Boris deserves all this," associate head coach Chris Woodruff said. "He's been a team guy, and he's worked really hard since he's been here. I'm just so proud of him."
Conkic and Garrapiz, ranked No. 46, had both come off three-set matches in Sunday's semifinals. Conkic said that made for an unusual start to the finals.
"We were a little bit rusty from yesterday," Conkic said.
Conkic fell behind 4-2 to start the match but won the next three games to move up 5-4. The first set was nearly headed for a tiebreaker, but Conkic held his serve to win 7-5.In the second set, he picked up a break 3-2 and won the final three games to close out the match.
"I think I served pretty good in the important points, and that helped me a lot in this match," said Conkic, who is currently ranked 68th. "After winning the first set, it gave me a lot of confidence to continue with that game."
He added he also received some assistance from off the court during the finals. The Vols' tournament participants had remained in Norcross another day for the championship match.
"My teammates supported me great today," Conkic said. "It really helped me in decisive moments, and it gave me a lot of energy to see that they were behind me, even in an individual tournament."
Back to Back
Junior John-Patrick Smith, who lost in three sets to Garrapiz in the quarterfinals, was the SEC Indoors defending champion. With Conkic's win Monday, the Vols have won back-to-back titles for the first time in school history.
"It shows we've got really great players on our team, simply put," Woodruff said.
Conkic became the fifth UT player to win the singles title at the SEC Indoors. The Vols have also won the doubles title five times, including last season when Smith and senior Davey Sandgren teamed up to earn the championship.
Woodruff himself was an SEC Indoors champion, winning the title in 1993. The Vols' other winners include Tim Jessup in 1991 and Peter Handoyo in 2002. That's pretty good company for Conkic, considering the four previous winners have a combined nine All-America and 10 All-SEC selections.
Now in his third season, Conkic has won 69 matches and has a career winning percentage of .784, which is the fourth best in UT history. He has also earned All-SEC honors twice.
The Second Title
Monday marked Conkic's second singles championship, though there was a long wait before his latest title. As a freshman, he won the UNLV Fall Classic during his first semester in Vol uniform.
There's no doubt about, though. Conkic said Monday's win at the SEC Indoors was much more meaningful.
"The SEC is the strongest conference in college tennis, so it's just great to win it," Conkic said. "There were so many great players, and I hope that this success is going to go throughout the season."
Conkic was a frequent participant in the doubles finals during the fall. He teamed up with Smith to earn UT's second doubles title at the ITA All-American Championships. Conkic and freshman Rhyne Williams reached one final together early in the season before eventually winning a championship together at the ITA Ohio Valley Regionals.
In singles, Conkic was a finalist in third flight of the UVa Ranked Plus One Championship.
"For some people, it takes a while to win titles," Woodruff said. "I think he's now understanding that these tournaments are opportunities to win. Boris, in my opinion, is easily a top 10, top 5 college tennis player."
All About Confidence
Winning an individual championship is a good way to start a season. No doubt about that. Conkic said he hopes the win give his teammates confidence heading into the upcoming dual-match season.
"It shows that everything is possible, that they can get success at this level as well," Conkic said. "I hope it brings confidence to the team most of all, more than myself."
The fifth-ranked Vols kick off the season Saturday by hosting East Tennessee State at 10:30 a.m. and Chattanooga at 6 p.m. Scoring and a live blog will be available here at UTSports.com.
SEC Indoor Championships
Boris Conkic, UT, def. Javier Garrapiz, Georgia, 7-5, 6-2