March 26, 2013
The Vols returned to the top 5 in the national men's tennis rankings Tuesday, checking in at No. 5 in the ITA weekly team list.
Thanks to weekend victories over top-15 Kentucky and Vanderbilt, the Vols (17-6, 4-3 SEC) are the highest they have been in the national rankings since ending the 2011 season at No. 4. The team hosts No. 12 Texas A&M on Friday at 3 p.m.
Individually, sophomore Mikelis Libietis continued to make strides up the rankings in his second season at the top of the Tennessee lineup. The Latvia native is now ranked a career-best No. 3 nationally.
In doubles, Libietis and Reese continued their vault up the doubles rankings. The Vol pair is now No. 7 after a 6-0 start to SEC play.
A LOOK AT THE TEAM
The Vols are back on the rise after defeating then-No. 4 Kentucky 4-1 on the road and No. 12 Vanderbilt 4-2 at home to cap off a 2-0 SEC weekend for the first time this season.
Tennessee has continued to add valuable high-ranked victories toward the computer rankings. At the end of the conference championship season, generally the top 16 teams are selected to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Championships in May.
The Vols have benefitted from a difficult road schedule and have also added some key home wins over the last two weeks. Top-30 victories include: No. 8 Kentucky (road), No. 12 Texas A&M (neutral), No. 13 Mississippi State (road), No. 14 Vanderbilt, No. 19 Illinois (twice on the road), No. 25 South Carolina (home) and No. 28 Wake Forest (road).
A LOOK AT SINGLES
Tennessee has enjoyed a long-standing tradition of boasting some of the top-ranked singles players in the country, year in year out. Now ranked third nationally, Mikelis Libietis is fast-becoming part of that history.
With three wins since the last published rankings, Libietis climbed from sixth to third nationally. He is 16-1 this spring and now 30-4 overall. More importantly for the Vols, he has opened up the SEC season with a 5-0 record.
Six Vols in program history - most recently touring pros John-Patrick Smith and Rhyne Williams - have held the No. 1 singles ranking. Behind those two All-Americans, Libietis is the third-highest ranked Vol in Sam Winterbotham's seven-year tenure as UT head coach.
As a whole, the sophomore Vols continue to show why they were ranked fourth nationally as a signing class in 2011.
In his second season at the No. 2 position, Hunter Reese is ranked No. 31 with a 25-6 record. He has won three matches since the last ranking period, including two ranked victories. With his ranking, he is on track to join Libietis in the NCAA singles championship field in May.
Fickey stayed in the national rankings at No. 115. He has a 22-11 record this year, giving the Vols three 20-win players with potentially more to follow in the coming weeks. Senior Taylor Patrick is 19-9 this year.
A LOOK AT DOUBLES
Since rejoining forces earlier this month, Libietis and Reese have skyrocketed up the rankings. The two are 6-0 with three top-25 victories and have returned to the top 10 at No. 7 nationally.
Seventh was the highest the leading Vol duo reached last year when they played every match at No. 1 together. Libietis and Reese have played with different partners most of the year but returned to the top of the lineup together in the second week of SEC play.
The move has turned out beneficial for the Vols' whole doubles lineup. Since the move, Tennessee has won the doubles point in six of their last seven matches. The Vols' current No. 2 team, Fickey and Jarryd Chaplin, are 5-1 since the swapping doubles partners.
No. 7 - Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese
No. 47 - Mikelis Libietis/John Collins
No. 48 - Jarryd Chaplin/Mikelis Libietis
No. 52 - John Collins/Edward Jones