Jan. 21, 2011
For head coach Sam Winterbotham and the third-ranked Tennessee Volunteers, there was no looking ahead; the road any future or postseason success started Friday in the season opening dual match.
The Vols took the first step down that path with a 7-0 shutout against No. 51 East Tennessee State in the Goodfriend Tennis Center in a match that included a straight-set victory by Tennessee on every singles court.
"We talked at the start of the match that we've got to execute today," said Winterbotham, now in his fifth season with the Vols. "The win today is connected to what we do at the end of the year. The philosophy they come out and play with, the shots they execute under pressure starts today. They need to be ready for it."
Tennessee (1-0) started the day off in doubles with seniors John-Patrick Smith and Boris Conkic earning an 8-2 victory over ETSU's Grega Teraz and Charles Bottoni at the top of the Vols lineup. Fresh off their final appearance at the SEC Coaches Indoor Championships earlier this week, picked up their win in relatively little time, but the rest of the doubles matches were much slower paced.
Friday marked the first time sophomores Rhyne Williams and Tennys Sandgren teamed up in a collegiate match for the first time, although they had played multiple doubles tournaments together during the summer at USTA Futures events. They defeated Sander Gille and Jesus Bandres 8-5 to clinch the doubles point, the 13th consecutive time in which the Vols' have won the doubles portion of the match.
Senior Matteo Fago and Edward Jones, mainstays at the No. 3 position last year, were playing their first doubles match together since May. They closed out doubles with a lengthy 8-5 win over Juan Ramirez and Robin Akser.
Winterbotham said that while the Vols looked a little flat for doubles play, the Vols were ready to go in singles. Three quick victories from Williams, Sandgren and Smith clinched the dual match victory for the Vols at the top three positions, and the rest of the Vols finished their matches on the remaining courts to preserve the 7-0 shutout.
Williams jumped to first in the singles rankings earlier this month after winning the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, and he played at the No. 1 position for the first time for the Vols. He proved his ranking in a hurry and was the first off the court on Friday for the Vols with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Gille.
Smith, who has played No. 1 for the Vols the last two seasons and was ranked No. 1 nationally during the fall, was back on court No. 2 for the first time since his freshman season. He faced the only currently ranked opponent on ETSU's roster, No. 73 Bandres, and earned a 6-3, 6-2 win.
"I'm just going to give my best effort every time I walk out on the court," Williams said. "We can switch at any time. JP and I can both play at 1, and that just shows how deep the team really is. At the moment, I was a little surprised to be No. 1 when the rankings came out, but I'm just glad to be in the position where I'm at."
Sandgren fell behind 3-2 in the second set but won the last four games on his way to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Grega Teraz on court 3. Fago, ranked a career-best No. 38, and Conkic collected wins on courts 4 and 5 respectively.
Jones ended the day by defeating Jorge Varon 7-5, 6-2 at the No. 6 position in only his fourth time playing singles in a dual match.
Up Next: The Vols are one of 15 hosts for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend on Jan. 28 and 29 at the Goodfriend Tennis Center. They play San Diego on Jan. 28 at 1 p.m. and will play a second match on Jan. 29 against either Clemson or USC Upstate. The winner of the two-day event advances to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, an event the Vols reached the finals of last season.
Notes: Winterbotham recorded his 95th career victory with the Vols on Friday and is looking to become the fourth UT head coach to reach the 100-win milestone ... Smith has 122 career doubles victories, putting him nine wins away from tying Byron Talbot (1985-88) for UT's all-time doubles wins lead ... with wins in both categories, Conkic now has 93 career wins in both singles and doubles.
Tennessee 7, East Tennessee State 0
1. #1 Rhyne Williams (UT) def. Sander Gille (ETSU) 6-1, 6-1
2. #21 John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. #73 Jesus Bandres (ETSU) 6-3, 6-2
3. Tennys Sandgren (UT) def. Grega Teraz (ETSU) 6-2, 6-3
4. #38 Matteo Fago (UT) def. Charles Bottoni (ETSU) 6-3, 6-2
5. Boris Conkic (UT) def. Juan Ramirez (ETSU) 7-5, 6-2
6. Edward Jones (UT) def. Jorge Varon (ETSU) 7-5, 6-4
1. Boris Conkic/John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. Grega Teraz/Charles Bottoni (ETSU) 8-2
2. Tennys Sandgren/Rhyne Williams (UT) def. Sander Gille/Jesus Bandres (ETSU) 8-5
3. Edward Jones/Matteo Fago (UT) def. Juan Ramirez/Robin Akser (ETSU) 8-5
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (1,3,2,5,4,6)