May 30, 2010
This time, however, they're looking for different end results.
Sandgren and Smith took care of business quickly in the semifinals, defeating North Carolina's Clay Donato and Stefan Hardy 6-3, 6-2 in a match that lasted just 62 minutes at Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
"We wanted to come out playing well because we knew it was a really good team we had to face in the semis," Sandgren said. "We wanted to make it to the finals this year, like we did last year. I thought we came out strong and played a tough match."
The Vols duo, ranked third nationally, face Virginia's Michael Shabaz and Drew Courtney on Monday at noon in what will be a near rematch of last year's championship. Sandgren and Smith lost in three sets to Shabaz and Dominic Inglot in the 2009 NCAA doubles final.
Shabaz and Courtney, unseeded in the tournament, upset fourth-seeded Bradley Klahn and Bradley Thacher 7-6, 7-6 in their semifinal match.
This is hardly new territory for Smith, who is playing for an NCAA individual title for the third year. As a freshman, he lost to Virginia's Somdev Devvarmann in singles.
Hard to believe that the Vols barely escaped the first round four days ago, getting past William and Mary's Keziel Juneau and Sebastien Vidal in three sets. Sandgren and Smith picked up steam after that match and played some of their best tennis of the tournament Sunday.
"In the opening match, we weren't even thinking about making the final," Smith said. "We were just trying to take one step at a time. We've been playing better as each match has progressed, so that's a good sign for us."
Against North Carolina, Smith put away a shot up the middle to give the Vols' their first break of the match at 5-3. Sandgren held serve to win the first set 6-3.
Sandgren and Smith broke Donato's serve to start the second set and led the rest of the match. They got a second break to go up 5-2 courtesy of a double fault by North Carolina.
"JP played really well today," Sandgren said. "I had trouble starting out with my return game, but I caught on and then we played pretty well. We broke them a lot of times, which was good."
Sandgren and Smith have won five consecutive and improved to a record-setting 41-8 on the season. Byron Talbot and Shelby Cannon had held the record of 40 wins since 1986.
Tennessee has won the national doubles title once in program history. Mel Purcell and Rodney Harmon, the top players for the Vols in 1980, teamed up to defeat Trinity's Tony Giammalva and Johnny Benson 7-6, 7-6 for the championship.
Monday marks the Vols' fourth appearance in the doubles title match. Sandgren and Smith reached the final last year. Michael Fancutt and Andy Kohlberg did the same in 1979.
NCAA Tennis Championships
Sandgren/Smith (2), UT, def. Donato/Hardy, North Carolina, 6-3, 6-2
Shabaz/Courtney, Virginia, def. Klahn/Thacher (4), Stanford, 7-6, 7-6
Sandgren/Smith (2), UT, vs. Shabaz/Courtney, Virginia, noon