Jan. 8, 2010
Tennys Sandgren, the nation's top tennis recruit, has enrolled at the University of Tennessee for the spring semester and is eligible to play for the fifth-ranked Volunteers immediately.
Sandgren is rated first by TennisRecruiting.net and has reached as high as No. 4 in the ITF junior world rankings. The Gallatin, Tenn., native joins his older brother Davey and a Tennessee team that already has four ranked singles players in the top 75 and three doubles pairings in the top 12.
"Any time you're able to secure a player of that quality, you're ecstatic as a coach," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "Tennys is extremely ambitious, and he's come to the right place. He wants to be a professional tennis player, and that's the type of player we're starting to attract to the university."
Sandgren established himself as one of the top junior players in the United States. He was a finalist and a doubles semifinalist in two 2009 ITF Grade A tournaments: Copa Gerdau in Brazil and the Easter Bowl in California. He was also a three-time Boys 18 champion in national open events and was the Texas ITF singles champion in 2008. In 2006 and 2007, he was ranked No. 1 in Boys 16 singles and was the national singles champion in clay and hard courts.
He has competed in the junior events at the U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the French Open. He reached the doubles quarterfinals and upset Daniel Berta, the world's top-ranked junior from Sweden, at the junior 2009 U.S. Open. He has also achieved an ATP ranking of 980.
"It's definitely different working with guys who are all working together toward the same goals because tennis is usually a very individual sport, and I'm looking forward to it," Tennys Sandgren said. "We've got J.P. Smith, No. 2 in the country in singles, and two doubles teams in the top 10, so I think we're a really good team. I expect our team will do great things this season."
Davey and Tennys Sandgren are just the third pair of brothers to play tennis together on the Vols since 1950. They are the first brothers to play since Nashville twins Bill and Dan McGugin competed for the Vols in 1997.
Davey joined the Vols as a redshirt freshman in 2005, and Tennys began his World ITF Junior career at age 15, eventually compiling a 70-35 record.
"I've missed him since I came to college," Davey Sandgren said. "He's been traveling around the world playing tennis so I haven't had time to hang out with him too much, so I'm really looking forward to spending time together on and off the court."
Davey Sandgren, an aerospace engineering major, has certainly made a career for himself at UT. Heading into his final semester, he is fifth all-time in doubles wins with 85 and is currently ranked seventh in doubles with junior teammate John-Patrick Smith.
"What the family has done, they've raised two quality young men who are not only outstanding people, but they're outstanding students and great tennis players as well," Winterbotham said. "I don't know how Lia and David do it, but as a parent, I'm going to be picking their brains over the next few years."
Completed Recruiting Class
Tennys Sandgren is the fourth freshmen to join the Vols this year. Freshmen Rhyne Williams from Knoxville and Edward Jones from Carmarthen, Wales, recently completed their first semester on the UT squad. Prajnesh Gunneswaran from Chennai, India, is redshirting this season.
Winterbotham compared this season's recruiting class to the accolade-winning group of 2007, which included two-time All-America Smith and All-Southeastern Conference performers Boris Conkic and Matteo Fago. All three were named to the SEC All-Freshman Team their first season.
"I feel that this year's recruiting class may go down as one of the best in our history," Winterbotham said. "We had a pretty good one two years ago with J.P., Boris and Matteo, which I thought at the time was a fantastic class. This class has the potential to be equal to that."
Like Tennys, Williams entered UT with a top-10 ITF junior ranking, coming in at No. 4. He finished 13-3 for the Vols during the fall and earned his first career ranking at No. 22. He and Conkic are ranked 12th in doubles.
"To have Rhyne join the team last semester and Tennys this semester, it's great for our program," associate head coach Chris Woodruff said. "When you can get two talented players like Rhyne and Tennys, it's really a coach's dream."
Talent from Tennessee
Tennys Sandgren became the sixth in-state player on the Vols' roster, joining Davey, Williams, seniors Matt Brewer and Christopher Williams and redshirt freshman Taylor Patrick. Brewer recently acquired his first career singles ranking, reaching No. 52 after an 8-5 fall.
"We're excited that we have six players from the state of Tennessee on our roster," Winterbotham said. "It's great that we can continue to attract the best players in the state to the flagship university in the state. I'm excited for the future of the program."
Starting Next Week
The Vols will kick off 2010 next week with a pair of tournaments: the SEC Coaches Indoor Championships in Atlanta and the Sherwood Cup in Los Angeles. Tennessee swept the titles at the SEC event last year, with Smith winning the singles title and Smith and Davey Sandgren taking the doubles crown.
Front-page photo by Paul Ballard of zootennis.com