Oct. 25, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Tennessee senior John-Patrick Smith lost the title match at the USTA/ITA Ohio Valley Regional Championships on Monday, but he still counted the tournament a success in terms of confidence.
Eighth-ranked Eric Quigley of Kentucky took advantage of Smith's off-day in the service game, defeating the UT leader 6-3, 7-6 (5) in the championship round at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.
Smith struggled getting his first serve in play and faced pressure from Quigley to hold serve nearly the entire match. Quigley broke Smith at 3-2 in the first set, but both players held serve in the second set to send the match into a tiebreaker. Quigley won the tiebreaker 7-5 on a return winner.
Smith had just one break opportunity, which came late in the second set.
As the No. 1 ranked player nationally, Smith will receive an at-large bid to the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in Flushing, N.Y., from Nov. 4-7. Last season, he was a semifinalist.
"Hopefully, I can go to New York with some confidence and know that even though I didn't play my best today, I nearly pulled it out in that second set," said Smith, who is currently tied for the fourth-most career singles wins in UT history with 120.
The regional championships certainly represented a turnaround for Smith. The Townsville, Australia, native suffered a pair of uncharacteristic opening-round exits in his first two fall tournaments, including at the ITA All-American Championships, where he had been the defending champion.
He entered the weekend tournament with a 5-3 record and strung together five more wins in three days, with decisive straight-set victories over No. 63 Simon Childs of Louisville and No. 20 Ryan Lipman of Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
One of the differences for Smith? He picked up his old racket.
Smith said he had been playing with a new racket this fall, but last week, he started to practice again with his usual model.
"I'm not going to make any excuses, but I'm glad I switched back to my old racket," Smith said. "It's probably helped me out a lot, especially with my confidence. It feels good to build up for New York."
Smith might be joined by a second teammate in the National Indoors field: sophomore Rhyne Williams. At No. 21 nationally, Williams could receive an at-large bid as well. He lost to Quigley in Sunday's semifinals.
ITA Ohio Valley Regional Championships
(2) Eric Quigley, Kentucky, def. (1) John-Patrick Smiht, UT, 6-3, 7-6 (5)