Sept. 12, 2003
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Three members of Tennessee's men's tennis team saw their first action of the season Friday at the Air Force Academy Fall Invitational. Junior Mark Dietrich and sophomore Rawl Martin both went a perfect two-for-two in singles competition, while freshman Johnny Thornton made his debut as a Volunteer.
The Vols have joined players from the Air Force Falcons and Denver University Pioneers for a weekend of hard court round-robin action high in the Rocky Mountains at the United States Air Force Academy.
"I think it was a good day all-around for the guys under fairly difficult conditions-playing at altitude," Tennessee head coach Michael Fancutt said. "It's good to challenge them with different conditions and different scenarios to play under. Particularly, Raw Martin and Mark Dietrich played very well [Friday.]"
Dietrich, the Vols' top representative at the event, opened his season by defeating Air Force sophomore Nejc Smole by a score of 7-6(7), 3-6, 10-7. Later in the afternoon, Dietrich toppled Denver senior Hans Peter Gaber 7-6(1), 6-3.
Martin, meanwhile, looked impressive in both of his singles outings. The Memphis native made short work of Denver sophomore Brian West, recording a 6-2, 6-1 victory. He then surrendered only two games during a quick 6-0, 6-2 dismantling of Pioneer junior Jason Tan.
Thornton, a lifelong Tennessee fan who realized a dream when he signed with the Vols this spring, began his collegiate career with a 6-4, 6-4 loss at the hands of Air Force senior Justin Mancinelli. Thornton's next opponent was Falcon senior Tyler McClung, who managed to outplay the young Vol 6-0, 6-1.
Play continues Saturday, with the event's top-two players, Dietrich and Air Force sophomore Shannon Buck, slated to face-off in third-round singles action. Dietrich is presently listed as the nation's No. 37-ranked collegiate singles player, while Buck is ranked No. 45. Both netters enjoyed breakout seasons a year ago, with Dietrich being named to the All-SEC second team, and Buck becoming the second man in Air Force Academy history to be selected to the field of 64 at the 2003 NCAA Division I Men's Singles Championships.
The competition has adopted a match format slightly different from traditional NCAA procedure. Singles matches consist of two complete sets, with a 10-point tiebreaker serving as the third set if necessary. Doubles contests are played under an eight-game pro set format. Matches are played indoors at the Cadet Gymnasium Tennis Courts and outdoors at the Air Force Academy Tennis Courts.
Tennessee is not taking part in doubles action this weekend.
TENNESSEE PULLS OUT OF SOUTHERN INTERCOLLEGIATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
With both of its senior netters currently sidelined with injuries, Tennessee has announced that it will not take part in the Southern Intercollegiate Championships Sept. 19-22, in Athens, Ga.
The Volunteers' coaching and training staffs will instead focus on getting Simon Rea (elbow) and Wade Orr (back) back to form for the adidas Invitational, which takes place Sept. 25-28 in Peachtree City, Ga.
At least one Vol netter, Dietrich, will travel to Costa Mesa, Calif., next week for the Diadora Pro-Championship. Rea was also scheduled to compete at the USTA Professional Futures Circuit event, but will have his elbow examined in Knoxville before making a decision about whether or not to play. Rea is Tennessee's top-ranked singles player, listed at No. 12 in the country.