May 26, 2011
By Amanda Pruitt
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Rain altered the first-round schedule of the NCAA Singles Championships on Wednesday, but the three Tennessee Volunteers competing were not derailed by the change.
In fact, all three won in straight sets.
As the higher-ranked players, sophomore Rhyne Williams and senior John-Patrick Smith advanced, while sophomore Tennys Sandgren earned one of the best ranked wins of his career to join them into the round of 32 at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
Sandgren upset 13th-ranked Reid Carleton of Duke 6-3, 6-3 in his first national collegiate tournament appearance. After Sandgren's win, Smith followed with a quick 6-1, 6-3 victory over George Coupland of Mississippi State. On the court next to Smith, Williams earned a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sanam Singh of Virginia.
The next round of singles matches starts Thursday, and the doubles tournament begins as Smith and senior Boris Conkic try to uphold their No. 1 seeding against Ohio State's Matt Allare and Peter Kobelt.
Opening-round play was suspended because of rain while Sandgren and Smith were warming up for their singles matches. The tournament resumed after a two-hour delay, and the skies were clear throughout most of the afternoon.
The lengthy wait between warmup and match briefly disrupted Sandgren at the start. He was broken on his first serve against Carleton, but he broke back and eventually took the first set 6-3. He was in control throughout much of the second set en route to the 6-3, 6-3 victory.
Returning to the win column was important for Sandgren, especially after falling in disappointing 6-2, 6-2 fashion to Sadio Doumbia in the Vols' 4-3 loss to Georgia in the team quarterfinals on Saturday.
"I had my worst performance in a quite a while," Sandgren said. "It's really not much of a consolation, but I would like to put a few good matches in if I can to erase that from my mind a bit."
Entering Wednesday, Sandgren had recorded just one ranked win against a top-50 opponent. The victory over Carleton now gives him two over top 20 players, the other being Louisville's Austen Childs, the 2010 NCAA singles finalist.
"It's good for me, good for my confidence," Sandgren said. "I haven't played a lot of matches since the SEC Tournament, so I've been a little match-shy, lacking a little confidence. Any win is good right now."
Sandgren faces Texas' Kellen Damico on Thursday, and a victory would give him ITA All-America status. Williams and Smith are automatic singles All-America honorees because they are seeded in the tournament.
Williams, seeded fourth in the tournament, drew one of the more difficult first-round opponents in Virginia's Singh. Though he entered the tournament ranked 34th, the senior Cavalier was ranked No. 1 nationally during part of 2010.
Williams faced multiple break points -- including five in the final game -- but was able to hold serve and maintain composure throughout the match, eventually winning 6-3, 6-4 to advance.
Looking back, Williams is used to tough first-round competition. In November, he beat top-seeded Alex Domijan of Virginia on the opening day of the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, and three days later, the Knoxville native hoisted the national trophy.
Williams faces a very familiar opponent in the round of 32: Georgia's Javier Garrapiz. The two have faced three times this spring, and Williams has the 2-0 advantage, which includes a 7-5, 7-5 victory in the Vols' quarterfinal loss Saturday.
Victory No. 41
Smith matched his personal best for victories in a season when he logged win No. 41 against Coupland in his opening round match. Playing in his final collegiate tournament, the senior from Townsville, Australia, took command from the start on his way to the 6-1, 6-3 victory.
The 41 wins ranks as eighth-most in a season in UT history. Smith and Byron Talbot (1985-88) are the only Vols in history to record two 40-win seasons. Williams can join potentially join them. He enters his second-round match with 38 wins; he had 41 wins as a freshman.
Smith, the 2008 NCAA finalist, plays Virginia's Jarmere Jenkins, who is coming off three consecutive days of three-set matches.
NCAA Singles Championships
Round of 64
(4) Rhyne Williams, UT, def. Sanam Singh, Virginia, 6-3, 6-4
(9-16) John-Patrick Smith, UT, def. George Coupland, Mississippi State, 6-1, 6-3
Tennys Sandgren, UT, def. (9-16) Reid Carlton, Duke, 6-3, 6-3
Round of 32
(4) Rhyne Williams, UT, vs. Javier Garrapiz, Georgia
(9-16) John-Patrick Smith, UT, vs. Jarmere Jenkins, Virginia
Tennys Sandgren, UT, vs. Kellen Damico, Texas
NCAA Doubles Championships
Round of 32
(1) Boris Conkic/John-Patrick Smith, UT, vs. Matt Allare/Peter Kobelt, Ohio State