Feb. 15, 2011
By all indications, Tennys Sandgren's college tennis career is on the rise.
The results this spring speak to that suggestion.
The sophomore from Gallatin, Tenn., has an 11-1 record the last two months and reappeared in the ITA national singles rankings Monday at a career-best No. 46. Five of his wins have come against ranked opponents during his current hot streak, including one against top-10 mainstay Austen Childs of Louisville.
Coming in as one of the top-ranked juniors in the world, Sandgren arrived at UT in January 2010 and quickly became a mainstay at the No. 4 singles position, going 10-0 in SEC play on his way to all-conference honors.
This season, he has moved up to the No. 3 spot and has also expanded his role in dual matches to include doubles. He leads the team with a 16-4 record in doubles this season and has been 6-0 in doubles with fellow sophomore Rhyne Williams at the No. 2 position.
Sandgren talks his newfound success, former hairstyle and current music of choice in this week's Q&A.
Q: Let's talk about this season, starting this spring. What's the difference between you this year and you last year?
A: I'm probably a little more prepared. I know what to expect more now than I did last spring. I feel like I have a good handle on college matches and I feel pretty comfortable on the court.
Q: Was it a hard transition last year to suddenly be thrown into the college tennis situation?
A: Yeah, it was difficult. We had such a good team and everyone knew what they were doing, so I was a little behind in the area of college matches. I was a little wet behind the ears so to speak. It was definitely an experience. The first couple of matches were tough but I feel like I got better as I went last season.
Tennis is already a confidence-based sport and you're more confident when you're playing better. As you play more matches you get more confident and just learn from there. I've been working really hard and doing a lot of off the court stuff. The practice is really paying off.
Q: There's that small break in college competition from in November and December. What was your offseason like?
A: I spent a lot of time in the gym and running on the track. I did a lot of running, lifting and practicing for events. I was hoping that I would start off well and I have so far.
Q: Talk a little bit about the first couple of weeks in the season. How do you feel you've been playing?
A: I felt like I've played well. Hawaii was kinda strange to start off the season. I feel like we've started off early. Last season, we took the first couple of weeks and trained, and this season--you could call it training -- but it was actually matches. That was good for me because I felt like I was ready to go for the first match. I've just been building confidence from there. I had a pretty good SEC Indoors, and I feel pretty good.
Q: Talk about doubles play. You weren't in the lineup much last season but now you're at No. 2 right now and leading the team in doubles wins. What's it been like playing the entire dual match?
A: It's good to be part of the whole dual match and not just a part of the second half of it. I played most of my matches last spring just singles and no doubles. Since doubles comes first, it changes your whole preparation for the match. It's a little different but I feel like I'm definitely used to it now. It's a tremendous experience to be a part of the whole thing and not just part of it.
Q: Last season, reporters were always interested in doing stories about you coming in as a freshman and being on the same team with your brother, Davey. How is it different playing without Davey this year?
A: It's definitely not as fun without Davey on the team, practicing with us, lifting with us. It was definitely a cool experience to have my brother on the same team as me; it was just awesome. That's one of the things I was hoping to come here and do was to have that experience with my brother. It feels like half of me is gone. He's still here at grad school, so it's not like I never see him. I see him a fair amount but it's not as cool not having him on the team.
Q: When you came last year, you had pro aspirations. How do you feel like this time in college has prepared you so far?
A: I feel like it's been great. I've definitely improved a lot. I've gotten a lot stronger, a lot fitter and I that can only help me in trying to play professional tennis.
Q: What do you think about the level of the competition in college tennis?
A: I feel like the levels from 1-6 on teams is really good, especially on the higher ranked teams. Freshman are coming in top-10 in the world in juniors and playing No. 6 on their teams. Guys that are ranked top-10 in college are having results in Challengers and Futures like Robert Farah of USC. He played summer last year and went from no ranking at all to top-200 in the world. If he can do it, it shows it can be done.
Q: Let's throw in a random question about hair here. For most of your freshman season you sported the mohawk during matches. Where did that look come from and can we expect to see it any time this season?
A: (laughs) It was totally random. It was on a whim. I was like, `what can I do to shake things up a little bit on the court?' and that seemed like a cool way to do it. I don't think it will make an appearance. Don't think. Maybe if things start going south I might do it just to change things up just to go back to my college roots. But I don't think I'll be doing it. That was a one-time deal.
Q: You're wearing the baseball cap now. How's that working out for you?
A: Hat is working well. It's a mixture between the hat and the bandana. It just depends from day to day. If I go hat, I'm feeling more aggressive. If I go bandana, it means I'll be out there for a while grinding. So it just depends on how I feel.
Q: This is a pretty open question (and not actually a question), but tell us about yourself off court.
A: I like to play a fair amount of Xbox. Call of Duty is one of my passions. I spend a fair amount of time on there if I'm not practicing or studying. But I probably spend most of my time practicing and studying. I like to listen to music so when I'm walking around campus I usually have earbuds in.
Q: What's your music of choice?
A: Anything loud. I like a lot of rock stuff. I kinda like this new techno European stuff a lot of the guys from the team listen to. It's pretty relaxing actually.
I've never been to a concert before. It's actually one of my goals is to go see some of my favorite groups live in concert. Which would be Disturbed, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin. Groups like that that I like.