March 4, 2011
The second-ranked Tennessee Volunteers started the Southeastern Conference season with a victory Friday, defeating 29th-ranked Alabama 6-1 at Barksdale Stadium.
In their first outdoor contest of the season, the Vols (11-1, 1-0 SEC) secured the doubles point with wins on all three courts and then took four singles matches in straight sets in unusually windy conditions. Senior John-Patrick Smith, who tied Tennessee's career doubles record earlier in the afternoon, clinched the match with a 6-1, 7-6 (2) win over Ricky Doverspike at the top of the lineup.
"I tell you, this is the most fun part of the year," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "You're competing against the rivals in your conference. We handled it really well today. It's a great start."
Sophomore Tennys Sandgren, who rose to a career-best No. 35 in the national rankings Tuesday, started out quickly for the Vols in singles and never looked back. He earned his eighth-consecutive win on court 3 with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Vikram Reddy.
In his third match at the No. 2 position, sophomore Rhyne Williams beat Jarryd Botha 6-3, 6-3 before Smith gave Tennessee the 4-0 lead. Not long after the match was decided, sophomore Edward Jones held court at the No. 6 position, beating Ian Chadwell 6-2, 7-5.
After a slow start, senior Boris Conkic picked up steam as the match wore on against Michael Thompson on court 5. Conkic lost the first set 2-6 but he broke Thompson to take the second set 6-4. He then shut out Thompson the 10-point tiebreaker 10-0 to extend his winning streak to a career-best 13 matches.
Alabama (7-3, 0-1) got its lone point on the final court when Daniil Proskura rallied to beat senior Matteo Fago 2-6, 7-6 (6), 1-0 (8) on court 4 to end the match. It was only Fago's fourth loss in 32 SEC matches.
In doubles, Conkic and Smith extended their winning streak to 10 matches by beating Doverspike and Botha 8-2 on court 1. The Vols' top pairing, who rose to No. 1 in the national rankings Tuesday, have a 14-1 record this spring.
With the win, Smith matched Byron Talbot (1985-88) for UT's career doubles wins record at 131 victories. He has won 19 of those matches with Conkic, but a majority of the wins came with Davey Sandgren. Smith and Sandgren reached finals the NCAA Doubles Championships twice and won 80 matches in a little more than two seasons.
"Boris and I complement each other well," Smith said. "It was the same way with Davey, and it was the same with Kaden (Hensel) too. It's good to find those players that help you progress and improve. Tennys and Rhyne complement each other too, as well as Matteo and Ed. Those matchups are really going to help us because doubles is so crucial when it comes down to the SEC and NCAA tournaments."
Tennys Sandgren and Williams clinched the doubles point on court 2 with an 8-3 win over Reddy and Thompson, who were ranked 62nd. Fago and Jones then won 8-5 on court 3. Both teams improved to 8-1 in dual matches.
The Vols host Auburn at 1 p.m. on Sunday to wrap up their first weekend of conference play. Admission is free and parking is available in lot N-15.
Tennessee 6, Alabama 1
1. #13 John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. Ricky Doverspike (UA) 6-1, 7-6 (7-2)
2. #3 Rhyne Williams (UT) def. Jarryd Botha (UA) 6-3, 6-3
3. #35 Tennys Sandgren (UT) def. Vikram Reddy (UA) 6-1, 6-1
4. Daniil Proskura (UA) def. #41 Matteo Fago (UT) 2-6, 7-6 (8-6), 1-0 (10-8)
5. #113 Boris Conkic (UT) def. Michael Thompson (UA) 3-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-0)
6. Edward Jones (UT) def. Ian Chadwell (UA) 6-2, 7-5
1. #1 Boris Conkic/John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. Ricky Doverspike/Jarryd Botha (UA) 8-2
2. #55 Tennys Sandgren/Rhyne Williams (UT) def. #62 Vikram Reddy/Michael Thompson (UA) 8-3
3. #52 Matteo Fago/Edward Jones (UT) def. Daniil Proskura/Trey Walston (UA) 8-5
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (3,2,1,6,5,4)