Tennessee Media Relations
Senior John-Patrick Smith's bid to become the career doubles leader at Tennessee came at a critical time for the Vols on Sunday.
Smith and fellow senior Boris Conkic delivered the doubles point with a deciding win at the top of the Vols' lineup, putting Tennessee on track for a 5-2 victory over Auburn at the Goodfriend Tennis Center.
After Tennessee (12-1, 2-0 SEC) and Auburn (7-4, 0-2) split wins on courts 2 and 3, the Vols' hope for the doubles point came down to Smith and Conkic. The Vols' top duo did not disappoint, breaking at 3-3 against 43rd-ranked Tim Puetz and Daniel Cochrane and holding the rest of the match. Fittingly, Smith served out the 8-6 win to give the Vols the 1-0 lead.
The record-setting doubles victory was No. 132 in Smith's career, surpassing Byron Talbot's 23-year-old record of 131 wins, as the Vols started their bid for a consecutive Southeastern Conference title with a 2-0 opening weekend.
"Those numbers don't lie," associate head coach Chris Woodruff said. "He's made a lot of players who were really good at doubles into really really good doubles players. He makes everyone better around him."
Conkic and Smith, who rose to No. 1 in the ITA national rankings last week, extended their winning streak to 11 matches and improved to 15-1 this season. Sophomore Rhyne Williams and Tennys Sandgren, ranked 55th, won 8-4 on court 2 to improve to 9-1 in dual matches.
"I just really hope that we can continue to get better," Smith said. "Tennessee doubles has traditionally been so strong, looking back over the years. Hopefully we can keep that tradition going and bring a championship here."
In singles, Smith was first off the court with a 6-3, 6-2 win over 23rd-ranked Puetz on court 1. A few minutes later, sophomore Edward Jones improved to 10-2 in his first season in the singles lineup, beating Lucas Lopasso 6-2, 7-6 on court 6 to put the Vols ahead 3-0.
Sandgren clinched the match for Tennessee by earning a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 104 Alex Stamchev on court 3. Sandgren, ranked a career-best No. 35, improved his winning streak to nine matches and ran his career SEC record to 12-0.
After the match was in Tennessee's hands, Williams also added a straight-set win over Tim Hewitt on court 2.
Auburn picked up a pair of victories on the singles courts. Conkic had his 13-match winning streak snapped in singles with a 7-6, 7-6 loss to Andreas Mies on court 5. Senior Matteo Fago lost his second SEC match this weekend, falling 6-3, 6-4 to Cochrane.
"I can't say that we performed our best," Woodruff said. "Auburn's a good team, but we'll be looking for Tuesday to come back practice hard on some things we have to firm up, especially in doubles. We need to be more aggressive through the middle of the court. In singles, we need to slow down a little bit and play with a clearer plan out there."
The Vols hit the road this weekend for a three-match road trip spanning three states in five days when they play Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Baylor. Tennessee squares off against Kentucky on Friday at 3 p.m.
"This biggest thing is taking it one match at a time and getting in a good week of practice," Smith said. "You don't want to look ahead. We've got three good teams all on the road, so it's going to be tough."
Tennessee 5, Auburn 2
1. #13 John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. #23 Tim Puetz (AU) 6-3, 6-2
2. #3 Rhyne Williams (UT) def. Tim Hewitt (AU) 7-5, 7-6 (7-4)
3. #35 Tennys Sandgren (UT) def. #104 Alex Stamchev (AU) 6-3, 6-3
4. Daniel Cochrane (AU) def. #41 Matteo Fago (UT) 6-3, 6-4
5. #117 Andreas Mies (AU) def. #113 Boris Conkic (UT) 7-6, 7-6
6. Edward Jones (UT) def. Lucas Lopasso (AU) 6-2, 7-6
1. #1 Boris Conkic/John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. #43 Tim Puetz/Daniel Cochrane (AU) 8-6
2. #55 Tennys Sandgren/Rhyne Williams (UT) def. #46 Andreas Mies/Alex Stamchev (AU) 8-4
3. Rafael Rondino/Lucas Lopasso (AU) def. #52 Matteo Fago/Edward Jones (UT) 9-8 (7-1)
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (1,6,4,3,2,5)