Feb. 4, 2011
The third-ranked Tennessee Volunteers go on the road for the first time this season to face 16th-ranked Illinois on Saturday in Champaign, Ill.
The match starts at 6 p.m. Central. A live blog of the match will be available at UTSports.com.
The Vols (3-0) are coming off a pair of home wins as part of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend to qualify for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Tennessee defeated San Diego 6-1 in the first round and shut out Clemson 7-0 on the second day.
Still No. 3:
The Vols remained third nationally in the ITA national team poll, which was released Thursday. The next round of team rankings will be sent out Feb. 8. Tennessee started the 2010 season fifth in the rankings but rose to second after reaching the finals of the National Indoors.
The next round of national individual rankings will be released Feb. 14. Williams is currently ranked No. 1 nationally, followed by Smith at No. 21 and senior Matteo Fago at No. 38.
Illinois (2-1) also qualified for the National Indoors with home wins against No. 39 Denver and No. 36 Notre Dame. The Illini dropped the doubles point in both matches but that was the only point they lost either day, winning 6-1 and 4-1 respectively.
Illinois has three ranked singles players, led by No. 11 Dennis Nevolo at the top of the lineup. Johnny Hamui is at No. 111 and Abe Souza is at No. 121. Nevolo and Souza are ranked 20th nationally in doubles, but they have not played together in dual matches.
The Strange Series
In an unusual scheduling occurrence, the Vols and Illinois met two times in five days in 2010. Tennessee won 6-1 in a non-conference dual match in Knoxville and later in the week won again 4-0 in the first round of the National Indoors in Charlottesville, Va.
On the Road
The Vols were 7-1 in road matches last season, their lone loss coming against Virginia in the finals of last year's ITA Indoor Nationals. Tennessee has won seven consecutive away matches since.
Now in his fifth season, Sam Winterbotham enters Saturday with a 97-21 record as head coach of the Volunteers. With three more wins, he would become the fourth UT tennis coach to reach 100 victories, joining Mike DePalmer Sr. (1981-94; 299 wins), Michael Fancutt (1998-2004; 123) and Louis Royal (1968-76; 120 wins).
DePalmer was the fastest coach to 100 victories, doing so in 137 matches. Winterbotham has a chance to reach that milestone in just 121 matches.
Tennessee has won the doubles point in the last 14 matches, including the matches played on the Vols' way to the finals of the NCAA Championships. The Vols won the doubles point in 32 of 33 matches last season, losing the first point only to Mississippi State.
Fago and Edward Jones, who have played at No. 3 doubles since the SEC dual-match season last year, have won their last seven matches together and are 16-5. Williams and Tennys Sandgren have won all three matches they have played at the No. 2 position.
The All-Time Record
Smith enters Saturday's match just eight wins away from tying Byron Talbot's record of 131 career doubles victories by an individual. Smith, who has played all but three of his dual matches in the No. 1 doubles position, has a 123-34 record in his career. He won 46 doubles matches last season as a junior, likely a school record.
11 & Counting
Williams has won 11 consecutive matches, dating back to his singles title run at the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships. He has a 19-3 record with nine victories against ranked opponents.
Williams' career-best winning streak is 17 matches, a stretch that lasted from March 14 until May 27 in 2010. He is 27-2 in his career in dual matches, most of those played at the No. 3 position.
The Winning Streak Helps
Williams' current winning streak helped propel him to the UT leader in career winning percentage. To be ranked on the list, a player must have won 70 matches, and Williams recorded match 70 last week. He has a 60-10 record, good for a .857 winning percentage.
Smith is currently fifth in career winning percentage (131-38; .775) and Conkic is seventh (95-29; .766).
Conkic enters Saturday with 95 wins in singles and 94 in doubles, keeping him easily on pace to become the fourth Volunteer to reach 100 singles and 100 doubles victories in a career.
If this accomplishment sounds familiar, senior Smith reached both milestones as a junior midway through last season. Byron Talbot and Shelby Cannon, the Vols' stars in the mid-1980s, are the only other two to accomplish the feat.
Smith currently has 131 wins in singles (fourth all-time) and 123 wins in doubles (third all-time).