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Vols Complete Clean Sweep at ITA All-American
John-Patrick Smith

John-Patrick Smith
Tennessee juniors John-Patrick Smith and Boris Conkic pulled off a feat Sunday afternoon that has not occurred at the ITA All-American Championships in more than a decade.

With an ace on match point, Smith captured the singles title Sunday afternoon at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla., to become the first Volunteer to win the event. About three hours later, Smith and junior Boris Conkic won the doubles championship, marking the first time a school has won both titles since 1998.

The No. 2-ranked Smith defeated No. 40 Andrei Daescu of Oklahoma 7-6 (7), 6-3 in the championship match. Smith and Conkic then teamed up to win their semifinal doubles match and defeat Oklahoma State's Aleksey Bessonov and Oleksandr Nedovyesov 8-4 in the finals.

"It's a big credit to our guys," Tennessee associate head coach Chris Woodruff said. "I was seeing on the court the things we've been working on at home in practice, which was great. The way we condition proved to be very important too. In those long matches, I think J.P. really benefitted because he was just in better shape.

"I hope that we can experience this feeling again when we play as a team in May."

Before Sunday, James Blake was the last to sweep the All-American trophies, doing so for Harvard in 1998. Blake, currently ranked No. 24 in the ATP, took the singles title and then won doubles with Kunj Majmudar.

Daniel Courcol and Mississippi State also won both titles in 1992.

Smith won a pair of lengthy three-set matches in the quarterfinals and semifinals on Saturday, defeating No. 3 Robert Farah of Southern California in the process.

Sunday's championship victory over Daescu did not include a third set, but the first set went into a tiebreaker, which Smith won 9-7.

Smith trailed 2-0 to open the second set, but he rallied back to take a 4-3 lead. He broke Daescu's next serve to go up 5-3.

The singles victory was Smith's career-best 10th consecutive, and he improved to 11-1 this season. He also bettered his record to 6-0 against ranked opponents this year, five of those wins coming in the All-American. Sunday's title was Smith's second tournament victory; he won his flight of the UVa Plus One Invitational in September.

Paul Annacone, a three-time All-America for the Vols from 1982-1984, was the closest Tennessee had ever come to winning the tournament in 1982 when he lost in the championship match to Peter Doohan of Arkansas.

The road to the championship was a long one for Smith. Between singles and doubles, he played 11 matches at the All-American with six of them taking place on Saturday and Sunday.

"Playing so much tennis definitely takes it out of you both physically and mentally," Smith said. "The main thing I try to do is keep relaxed and do a lot to look after my body so I can compete at such a high level."

Just after the singles trophy presentation, Smith was preparing once to play yet another match: the semifinals in doubles with Conkic. The duo dispatched of No. 6 Moritz Baumann and Marek Michalicka of Wisconsin 8-3.

The Tennessee duo faced Bessonov and Nedovyesov in the championship round. While unranked as a team, Nedovyesov is the preseason No. 1 in singles but was upset in the first round.

Smith and Conkic broke Oklahoma State's serve to go up 3-1 early. Bessonov and Nedovyesov returned the favor in the next game, but Smith and Conkic stayed ahead by picking up another break point to lead 4-2.

They maintained the lead and became the first Vols team to win the All-American since Byron Talbot and Shelby Cannon - Tennessee's most successful doubles pair - earned the championship trophy in 1986.

Smith and Conkic completed their first tournament as a doubles team, defeating four top-20 teams in the process. Smith improved to 8-0 in doubles this season, and Conkic's record improved to 7-1.

"We work really, really hard on doubles in practice," Woodruff said. "It was never a concern that they had never played together. J.P. and Boris are both very good doubles players. They normally play with different partners, but we knew they'd do well. Plus, they're good friends and teammates."

Although the team season is still months away, Sunday's performance was an important step for the Volunteers program. A year ago, Smith lost in the second round of the All-American, and Conkic fell one win short of qualifying. This season, Smith is the preseason No. 2, and Conkic is No. 20.

"Trophies are great, of course, but I was much happier about how we competed and the way we won both titles," Woodruff said. "J.P. and Boris were very resilient and showed a lot of competitive spirit in the tournament."

"Today was a great day for our program."

 

 

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