March 1, 2012
BY MATT MAGILL
Edward Jones is back on the winning track just in time for the SEC season.
The junior from Carmarthen, Wales, led the Vols last weekend at the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic. He reeled off three straight-set victories at the No. 5 position, clinching Tennessee's 4-1 victory over Boise State to finish the tournament.
He also went 1-0 with a new doubles partner, senior Bryan Swartz.
As the Vols travel to Florida to start the conference matches, Jones enters his third SEC tennis schedule as the undisputed veteran of the Vols. He jumped into the doubles lineup in time for league play as a freshman on court 3, and he played in both lineups during his sophomore season.
Before Tennessee bus pulled away for Gainesville, Fla., Jones talked a fresh start to the season, his mum's reaction to his ankle injury against Mississippi and a heated rugby rivalry in this week's tennis Q&A.
Q: How's your Leap Day?
A: It's going smoothly so far.
Q: How was the test yesterday?
A: It was fine. These last two days I've been quite busy with school because I had a Spanish oral exam and two other exams. They went pretty well.
Q: How does school fit into the season?
A: At the end of the day, we are students as well. When we're on the road, all the boys and me take our schoolwork with us. If we're in the bus, it's a pretty long journey so a lot of the boys study in there. We take it to the hotel as well.
Q: You got three big wins at the Blue Gray. I know you had been struggling. Did something just click for you? What changed during last weekend?
A: It was a fresh start going outdoors. I want to put the beginning of February behind me. Going outdoors is different. It's still tennis obviously, but you have to do lots of little things differently. I just went down there and tried to forget about the rest of the month. It was a fresh start and I just went from there.
Q: Do you prefer outdoor tennis?
A: I grew up playing indoors because where I'm from the weather isn't so good. I've always said I was an indoor player. I try not to think about it too much. Since I've been here, we've played the majority outdoors, so my outdoor game has improved a lot.
Q: You just picked up your 50th career win, and this is a young team. With your experience, have you had to take on a leadership role?
A: If the boys are looking for some kind of guideline that I can show them, I will. The boys are pretty mature. We all know where we're going as a team. I think we can all step up to take a leader's role at different stages. Bry and myself and Taylor, we've been on the team awhile. If the boys do need some help, on or off the court, they know they can come to us and we'll give them our support.
Q: Has Sam changed any at all with the younger team?
A: Sam likes us and we all like Sam. We've got a pretty good relationship there. He knows everyone is trying really hard every day. We're all in this together. We all try and have the same mindset everyday. There's going to be some days where you aren't your best, but as long as you're competing then the coaches will see that.
Q: You just changed doubles partners. What is the adjustment like, especially in the middle of the season?
A: I've played with Bry before. I played with him in some fall tournaments, so we understand each other's game. We both like to be around the net and we both have pretty good serves and enjoy coming to the net. We're naturally a good team together. The more we play, the more we're going to improve. It is something new, but I think we've had a couple of matches and we've done alright. We're getting a lot better now with more practice and more matches. I enjoy playing with Bry; he's a good guy.
Q: Entering into the SEC season, what advice would you give to the younger players?
A: We've had a lot of dual matches at home, so they've got experience with a dual match. Some people prefer the road because you know the other fans are going to be watching. Lots of the guys will thrive in that environment. It's exciting to go see all these universities and their facilities. Once you're on the court, there's not much of a difference. At the end of the day, it's still a tennis match. I'm sure the boys will be fine.
Q: How do you personally handle the crowd going against you?
A: There are times where the crowd will be loud and that's fine. You try not to let it have an effect on you. Once you step up to the line to serve, you have to make sure the other people aren't influencing you. You're playing against the guy on the other side of the net. You have to focus on that.
Q: Do you change any at all on the road, like cheer a little louder after a big point or do you try to keep to yourself?
A: I think it's fair to say we don't go into our shells on the road. We try and give each other as much support as we can. If we see a momentum swing in our favor or we're on a roll, then we're going to want to show it.
Q: What's your favorite place to go to in the SEC and your least favorite?
A: I don't know if I have a least favorite. I enjoy going to some of the bigger schools like Florida and Georgia. I quite like playing in front of a lot of people. I find it exciting. It's different than what I was used to before. It's cool to see how passionate people are about tennis, even though you know the majority of people want you to lose when you're away. I don't care about that; I find it exciting. Least favorite...
Q: You don't have to have a least favorite. I don't want to get you in trouble.
A: (laughs) If I had to say a least favorite, I would say Arkansas. But only because it's so far away. We end up flying, which is quite nice. It's because of the location.
Q: How do you improve in season? You spend a whole offseason practicing and improving, but do you see noticeable improvement in season?
A: There's form. Your form is up and down. You can't play at 95 percent of potential throughout the whole season. It's unrealistic. You're going to fluctuate. You just try and play every week at the same level. I'd say that as the season goes on, you improve more and more as you get more matches under your belt. Your form will be up and down. It's natural. It's that way for every sports player.
Q: When you hurt your ankle against Ole Miss, it was the first time you've missed with injury since you've been here. What was it like watching the team and not being able to help on the court?
A: It was pretty tough. I don't like sitting. It wasn't fun for me to miss a few matches. It was annoying, really. I tried to give as much support as I could from the stands and support the boys. I was really happy in the evening when Hunter Reese clinched for us. I would have been so upset if it came down my match. I carried on, but I wasn't able to play at 100 percent. I would have been pretty upset if it came down to me and we lost the dual match. Dave Colvin got me back pretty fast. We worked on it pretty hard everyday. I'm glad to be back and I'm at 100 percent now.
Q: What was going through your mind when you went down? It looked bad and you missed the next week's matches, but you got up and played through it.
A: When I first went over, I thought it was pretty bad because I've never done anything like that before. It hurt like heck, really. When Dave came on, I had five minutes. He strapped it up pretty tight and I had some painkillers. When I stood up, I realized I could carry on. I tried to stay out there as long as possible. After I finished, it must have been adrenaline that helped me carry on. When I took my shoe off, it really started to hurt. I was in the boot for the first time and that was annoying walking around campus.
Q: Did you get any extra attention because of the boot?
A: A little bit. People in your class and teachers will comment on it. I was just proud I wasn't going around campus on crutches because I'm absolutely terrible on those.
Q: What was your mom's reaction? It was like the one match of the year she comes to and you got injured.
A: I imagine she freaked out a lot. She couldn't really do anything. She just sat up there with my dad. I don't really know. I know she gets really worried when my brother plays rugby. She wants him to call home after when he finishes a rugby match so that she knows that he's okay. Tennis isn't such a violent sport. I think once I got up and put some weight on it, she probably felt a lot better.
Q: Bry revealed to me that you have the "full face." When you're eating and get full, you make a face and people know to come and scavenge your leftovers. Are you consciously aware of the full face?
A: I don't notice when I'm doing it. It's normally Bry who picks up on it. I think he has a sensor and knows exactly when to look at me. Americans eat so much more than me. There have been times where the boys will call dibs on my leftovers before we ever start. That gives me motivation to finish my food.
Q: Last week Trym revealed that FIFA gets pretty heated. Just how intense do your matches get?
A: It's pretty intense when Trym's playing because we always kick the heck out of him. He always has a punishment. He owes us a few to say the least. When we're in town, we're going to try to make him do those. He has to call my mum over Skype and apologize. He's called Colton's mum a few times. Embarrassing stuff.
Q: Is Colton the best player? Could you beat him?
A: Consistently, yes. I could take him on a good day, but a majority of times he's going to take me. I'm not going to lie about it. When we play now, we play online and we're on the same team. Back in the day, when we played against each other, I'd be a team that was better than him to make it fairer. He'd still win most of the time.
Q: Based on your twitter, you say very stereotypical British things like `cup of tea in the morning' or `he's a good mate.' Is that actually how British people are?
A: I just say what's on my mind, so I guess. The boys pick up on stuff I say daily. They're used to it now. I've got friends back home who follow me on Twitter and I want to show them I'm not Americanized too much.
Q: So when I say `cup of tea in the morning' in a British accent, that's actually accurate?
A: Oh yeah. We like tea and biscuits. My parents bought me a kettle for Christmas so I could bring it back over and have tea and coffee in my apartment. It's been a nice addition.
Q: British is the right term, right?
A: I'm Welsh and I'm British. Sam is English and British. It's like that.
Q: Do people call you English sometimes out of ignorance?
A: Some people I don't know will presume I'm English based on my accent. It's whatever. The boys joke around quite a lot saying I'm not British, I'm Welsh or vice versa. The boys know the difference.
Q: Are there any major differences culturally in Wales than from England?
A: Not really. The further west you go in Wales, the more Welsh the culture gets supposedly, but it's not too much different. Things run the same way in both places. The biggest thing is the sports rivalry, mainly in rugby. Actually, Wales beat England the other day in London. Chaps was in my face saying England was going to win. It turns out, after 80 minutes Wales won. I have to give it to him a little back.
Q: Chaps isn't even English.
A: I know. He's just trying to wind me up.... which he did a little bit. But I had the last laugh.
Q: Well, congratulations on the big win and go get packed and ready for the road trip.