Feb. 11, 2011
Fresh off their first win away from Knoxville, the third-ranked Tennessee Volunteers hit the road again Saturday to face 14th-ranked Duke in Durham, N.C.
The match begins at 6 p.m. at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center. A live interactive blog of the match is available at UTSports.com.
The Vols (4-0) traveled to 16th-ranked Illinois last week and earned a 5-2 victory in their first road match of the season. Seniors Boris Conkic, John-Patrick Smith and Matteo Fago delivered victories in the singles lineup to clinch the win for the Vols. Sophomore Tennys Sandgren added a three-set victory on court three, and Tennessee also took the doubles point for the 17th consecutive time.
Smith will be recognized as the Male Amateur Athlete of the Year by the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame at a banquet in Nashville on Friday night. The three-time All-America from Townsville, Australia, enjoyed one of the greatest individual seasons in UT tennis history last year. He spent time ranked No. 1 nationally in both singles and doubles while helping lead the Vols to their first regular-season SEC title in a decade.
He is the first Tennessee tennis player ever to be honored by the TSHF in either the amateur or professional category. The annual awards date back to 1968.
Still No. 3
The Vols remained third nationally in the ITA national team poll, which was released Tuesday. The next round of team rankings will be sent out Feb. 14, at which time the new individual rankings will be released for the first time in more than a month. Sophomore Rhyne Williams is currently ranked No. 1 nationally, followed by Smith at No. 21 and Fago at No. 38.
Tennessee started the 2010 season fifth in the rankings but rose to second after reaching the finals of the National Indoors.
Duke (6-1) suffered its first loss of the season 4-2 against Illinois on the road Monday. The Blue Devils are 4-0 at home, and like the Vols, earned a spot in next week's 16-team field at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
When it comes to ranked players, Duke boasts one of the more formidable lineups at the top. The Blue Devils are led by ninth-ranked Henrique Cunha, who was named the ITA National Rookie of the Year as a freshman in 2010. Senior Reid Carleton had the best fall season of his career and jumped to fifth in the national rankings.
Chris Mengel is ranked No. 118 and has played No. 3 for Duke.
In doubles, Cunha and Carleton are ranked 12th nationally, but they were the ITA National Doubles Team of the Year in 2010 by finishing atop the final rankings. Smith earned that award with Davey Sandgren in 2009.
On the Road
With the win last week, Tennessee is 1-0 this season away from Knoxville. The Vols have won eight consecutive road matches.
Now in his fifth season, Sam Winterbotham enters Saturday with a 98-21 record as head coach of the Volunteers. With two 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). The Doubles Point: Tennessee has won the doubles point in the last 17 matches, including the postseason matches played on the Vols' way to the finals of the 2010 NCAA Championships. The Vols won the doubles point in 32 of 33 matches last season, losing the first point only to Mississippi State.
Smith and Conkic, the Vols' top pairing, are not currently ranked in doubles, but that will likely change next week with the new ITA release. They have a 7-1 record this spring with two wins against top 15 opponents. The 2009 ITA All-American Doubles Champions are 12-1 together in their careers.
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.
Nearing The All-Time Record
Smith enters Saturday's match just seven 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 124-34 record in his career. He won 46 doubles matches last season as a junior, likely a school record.
Singles Streaks: Conkic currently leads the Vols with a seven-match winning streak entering the weekend. The lefty from Novi Sad, Serbia, is 10-1 in his return to the Volunteers this spring with one ranked victory. He won a career-best 12 matches to open the 2010 spring season.
Smith and Sandgren have each won four matches in a row on courts 2 and 3 respectively.
Conkic enters Saturday with 96 wins in singles and 95 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, 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 132 wins in singles (fourth all-time) and 124 wins in doubles (third all-time).
Fago recorded his 90th career win last week against Illinois.