May 28, 2010
Second-seeded Sandgren and Smith defeated Oklahoma State's Aleksey Bessonov and Oleksandr Nedovyesov 6-3, 7-6 in the round of 16 to continue their bid for a national championship.
In singles, Rhyne Williams ended his spectacular freshman season with a 7-5, 7-6 (4) loss to 15th-ranked Tim Puetz of Auburn in the round of 16.
Sandgren and Smith face Wake Forest's Iain Atkinson and Steve Forman in Saturday's quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m. The UT duo defeated Atkinson and Forman 8-3 on the road during the dual-match season.
Although Sandgren and Smith were finalists last season, they nearly missed out on reaching the round of 16 all together. They dropped the first set and came back to defeat William and Mary's Keziel Juneau and Sebastien Vidal 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.
Friday was a different story, however. Sandgren and Smith broke Oklahoma State's serve early and rolled through the first set 6-3. They also went up a break to begin the second set.
"Today was much better than yesterday," Smith said. "We came out and made a lot more shots. We were a little flat yesterday.
"We warmed up better, I think. We had a lot better preparation and came out ready to play. The mentality was different."
Thirteenth-ranked Bessonov and Nedovyesov only broke Tennessee's serve once. During Smith's serve in the second set up 3-2, Oklahoma State's team benefitted from two winning shots that glanced the net and ricocheted over on Tennessee's side for the break.
Sandgren and Smith were able to hold serve and to force the tiebreaker. They fell behind early 3-0 in the tiebreaker, but rallied to close it out 7-4 to win the second set.
Experience doesn't mean everything, but it certainly helps. Sandgren and Smith improved to 39-8 this season and have 78 victories over the last three years. They are now 6-1 in doubles matches played to three sets, the format used for the NCAA tournament instead of the typical eight-game pro set.
In singles, Williams played from behind for a majority of both sets against Puetz. Williams was down 2-5 in the first set and stormed back to tie 5-5 before losing the set 7-5. He lost in a tiebreaker in the second set to end his tournament run and snap his 17-match winning streak.
Williams finished the season 41-7, which is the second-most wins by a UT freshman. He entered the tournament ranked 45th, but given his five victories over ranked opponents since the last ITA release, he's certain to rise up the ladder when the final rankings come out June 7.
NCAA Tennis Championships
Round of 16
Tim Puetz, Auburn, def. Rhyne Williams, UT, 7-5, 7-6 (4)
Round of 16
Sandgren/Smith (2), UT, def. Bessonov/Nedovyesov, Okla. State, 6-3, 7-6 (4)
D. Sandgren/Smith (2), UT, vs. Atkinson/Forman, Wake Forest, 1:30 p.m.