March 22, 2009
The Tennessee men's tennis team defeated Alabama 4-2 Sunday afternoon to win its fourth match in as many days and claim the 2009 Blue Gray Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Ala.
"Our guys did a fantastic job this weekend," head coach Sam Winterbotham said of his fourth-ranked Vols. "All season long we've had different guys step up at different times and that was especially true this weekend. It was truly a team effort.
"(Associate head coach) Chris (Woodruff) and I could not be more proud of the effort we saw. We were the one-seed, had the target on our chest, and we handled it extremely well. This is a great day for our program."
The Vols (14-3) took a 1-0 lead by claiming the doubles point with victories at the No. 1 and 2 positions. Boris Conkic and Matteo Fago, playing at the No. 1 slot for the first time this season, defeated 35th-ranked Dan Buikema and Mathieu Thibaudeau, 8-6.
Conkic and Fago finished the tournament 4-0 in doubles.
The Big Orange won the doubles point in three of four matches at the Blue Gray Classic and now have won the point in five of their last six outings. Earlier this season, the Vols lost the doubles point in five consecutive matches.
"We have a team that is full of competitors," Winterbotham said. "We knew it was an area that we needed to get better at and we need to continue to get better at it now even as we've shown improvement recently. Our goal is to have great doubles play at the end of the season."
Tennessee kept the pressure on Alabama by winning the first set in four of six singles matches.
The Tide (15-3), though, turned their two first set victories into two quick points to take their lone lead of the day, 2-1.
Buikema defeated Brewer at the No. 4 position and Michael Jung won at No. 6 over Christopher Williams to catapult Alabama into the lead.
Tennessee slammed the door on any Alabama thoughts of an upset, however, by taking advantage of its first set victories.
Conkic tied the match with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over 76th-ranked Thibaudeau at the No. 2 slot. Conkic finished the tournament 2-0 in singles.
The nation's seventh-ranked player, Smith, put UT back in front with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Myneni.
Smith was named MVP of the tournament after winning all four of his matches at the Blue Gray, three over ranked players.
Freshman Christian Hansen clinched the match for UT with a 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 5 over Mertz. Hansen has wrapped up four Tennessee victories this season, including back-to-back triumphs in Montgomery.
Tennessee is the first Southeastern Conference team to win the Blue Gray since Ole Miss in 1997.
"The Blue Gray is a fantastic event," Winterbotham said. "It is just a very special tournament. It gets unbelievable community support and the crowds that come out are tremendous. The whole event has a great energy and vibe to it. It is without a doubt one of college tennis's premier events and I couldn't be prouder that we get to call ourselves champions of the Blue Gray Classic."
The Big Orange return to action Friday afternoon at noon when they host Arkansas. All home matches are free to the public. Live scoring for those that cannot attend can be found at UTsports.com.
No. 4 Tennessee 4, No. 24 Alabama 2
|1.||No. 7 John-Patrick Smith (UT)||def.||No. 32 Saketh Myneni (UA)||6-3, 7-5|
|2.||No. 25 Boris Conkic (UT)||def.||No. 76 Mathieu Thibaudeau (UA)||6-3, 6-4|
|3.||Matteo Fago (UT)||led||Michael Thompson (UA)||6-3, DNF|
|4.||Dan Buikema (UA)||def.||Matt Brewer (UT)||6-2, 6-2|
|5.||Christian Hansen (UT)||def.||Billy Mertz (UA)||6-4, 6-4*|
|6.||Michael Jung||def.||Christopher Williams (UT)||6-1, 6-1.|
|Order of Finish: 4,6,2,1,5.|
|1.||Conkic/Fago (UT)||def.||No. 35 Buikema/Thibaudeau (UA)||8-6|
|2.||Brewer/Smith (UT)||def.||No. 49 Mertz/Myneni (UA)||8-6|
|Order of Finish: 3,2,1.|