April 12, 2013
HOUSTON -- Former All-American Rhyne Williams became the first Vol in 14 years to reach an ATP semifinal with another win Friday at the US Men's Clay Court Championships.
Williams rallied from down a break in the final set to beat 35-year-old Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo of Spain 7-6 (1), 1-6, 6-4 in the quarterfinals at the River Oaks Country Club.
After the match, Williams told reporters he would have been pleased with just one win in this tournament. He has now picked up three victories in his ATP clay court debut and is set to move up at least No. 113 in the Emirates ATP World Rankings next week.
"You've got to ride the wave," Williams said. "Hopefully my body will hold up for tomorrow. We'll see."
Williams will face top-seeded and world No. 12 Nicolas Almagro of Spain in Saturday's semifinals. The match starts at 2 p.m. Eastern and will air live on the Tennis Channel.
An NCAA finalist for the Vols in 2011, Williams is the first Vol in an ATP semifinal since current associate head coach Chris Woodruff won the Tennis Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I., in 1999.
Williams was granted a wild card into the Houston field and has certainly made the most of it, earning wins against Guido Pella of Argentina, former top-10 star Ivo Karlovic of Croatia and now Hidalgo.
The Knoxville native trailed 3-0 in the final set before summing up his reserve energy for the final stretch. He reeled off six of the next seven games and ended the match with a lights-out service game, going big on all his first serves and hitting all four.
"I was nervous, but I just trusted in my shot," Williams said. "I really didn't serve well the whole match. It just came back in the last five minutes thankfully."
Three Vols from the 2010 and 2011 SEC Championship teams are ranked in the top 250 in the ATP rankings. Williams leads the way in singles and opened the week at No. 144. Tennys Sandgren is No. 213 and 2011 SEC Athlete of the Year John-Patrick Smith is No. 249. Smith is the only Vol in the top 100 in doubles at No. 94.