Jan. 12, 2014
BY AMANDA PRUITT
Williams won three matches last week -- saving a match point along the way -- to qualify for the singles main draw. It is his second career Grand Slam appearance at the Australian Open and his fifth Grand Slam main draw appearance.
Smith lost in the second round of singles qualifying, but he is straight into the doubles draw with partner Sam Groth. Smith played doubles in all four Grand Slams last year.
For more news and notes:
1. BACK IN THE MAIN DRAWWilliams played his way into his second Australian Open main draw and now faces the highest ranked opponent of his career: No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro.
After earning the USTA wild card to the 2013 Australian Open, Williams had to go through qualifying this year. He entered qualies as the No. 13 seed and made the most of his opportunities. He beat Steven Diez 7-6, 2-6, 6-4 in the first round and then beat friend and occasional doubles partner Austin Krajicek 7-6, 7-6. He faced a match point in the second-set tiebreaker but came back to beat Thiemo de Bakker 2-6, 7-6 (8), 6-2.
Last year, Williams lost a heartbreaker five-setter in his Down Under debut. He held match points but lost to then-No. 28 Florian Meyer 2-6, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (12), 6-1. He is still looking for his first victory in the main draw of a Grand Slam.
Del Potro, one of just five active players to win a Grand Slam, is coming off a tournament victory at last week's Sydney International.
Williams' UT Career: Though he was just at Tennessee for two seasons, Williams posted the kinds of numbers some players do not achieve in their entire career. He was a two-time All-American and SEC performer in 2010 and 2011, helping the Vols to the SEC title both seasons. He held the No. 1 national ranking in singles and captured the 2010 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship. He ended his career as a finalist in the NCAA singles championship.
2. SMITH & GROTHAlthough Smith's run in singles was stopped short in the second round of qualifying, Smith is set to make his third career main draw appearance in his home slam in doubles.
Smith is coming off his best year on tour in doubles and enters this week with a rank of No. 74 in the world, making him the 13th Vol in program history to crack the top 100. He also won seven doubles titles during the year, giving him 17 in his three-year pro career.
Though he won matches with 10 different players in 2013, most of his success came with fellow Aussie Sam Groth, who he will be playing with this week. The pair won four titles together and reached the finals in three other events. Tennessee fans might remember that the pair won the Knoxville Challenger in November.
In 2013, Smith played in all four Grand Slams in doubles. We picked up two wins, one in Australian and one at Wimbledon.
Smith's UT Career: Simply put, Smith rewrote the Tennessee record book during his career from 2008-11. He is the second player in college tennis history to earn All-America honors in singles and doubles all four years at Tennessee. He held the No. 1 ranking in both singles and doubles and was a three-time NCAA individual finalist (2 doubles, 1 singles). He was voted the 2011 SEC Athlete of the Year and was the back-to-back SEC Player of the Year in Tennessee's two conference championship seasons in 2010 and 2011. He had a combined 298 singles and doubles wins, the most in program history.
3. COACH SUCCESS
Associate head coach Chris Woodruff, now in his 12th season with the Vols, enjoyed his best Grand Slam performance at the 2000 Australian Open.
Woodruff played at Melbourne Park just three times during his top-30 playing career, and his second visit became one of the most successful singles performances of any former Vol at a Grand Slam. He won four matches and played his way into the quarterfinals where he lost to American great and former world No. 1 Pete Sampras. The highlight of Woodruff's run came in the fourth round, where he upset then 13th-ranked Tim Henman of Great Britain in five thrilling sets 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in 3 hours, 46 minutes.
Volunteer assistant coach Ben Testerman also had his best Grand Slam result at the Australian Open, reaching the semifinals in 1984. His run to the semifinals included a 7-6, 6-3, 6-7, 7-5 victory over then world No. 8 Joakim Nystrom. He beat future great Boris Becker in the quarterfinals.
Annacone won the Vols' only Grand Slam men's doubles title. He won the 1985 title with Christo van Rensburg.
Plus Two Coaches: More than two former Vols will be in action over the fortnight at the Australian Open. Christopher Williams has been serving as cousin Rhyne's coach since 2012 and has made the trip to Melbourne Park. Christopher was a member of the 2009 and 2010 teams and was the volunteer assistant coach for the team in 2011 and 2012. Paul Annacone (1982-84) will also return to the Grand Slam scene with a new player, women's American star Sloane Stephens. He had spent the previous several years with former world No. 1 Roger Federer.