April 19, 2011
Following a road victory over Georgia to clinch a consecutive SEC regular-season title, the Tennessee Volunteers returned to No. 2 in the ITA national team rankings.
Tennessee (20-3, 10-1 SEC) ended the regular season on a four-match winning streak that culminated in a 4-3 win against fifth-ranked Georgia on Saturday to secure a share of the regular-season title and claim the No. 1 seed in the SEC Championships later this week. The Vols had been ranked fourth nationally the last month.
Individually, the Vols have two players simultaneously ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 1988. Senior John-Patrick Smith climbed up four spots to the 10th position, while sophomore Rhyne Williams rose to third. Sophomore Tennys Sandgren is ranked 54th, and senior Matteo Fago is ranked 74th.
In doubles, Smith and fellow senior Boris Conkic maintained their hold on the No. 1 ranking for the fifth consecutive polling period despite a loss Saturday. Sandgren and Williams, who finished 9-2 in SEC play together, moved up to No. 52.
A First in 23 Years
The Vols have not had two players ranked in the top 10 in singles simultaneously since Byron Talbot was ranked fourth and Shelby Cannon was fifth in the 1988 preseason poll. Prior to that, Mel Purcell and Rodney Harmon were the only other teammates to be in the top 10 at the same time.
In the final 1980 rankings, Purcell was sixth and Harmon was 10th. Purcell and Harmon also ended the year atop the doubles rankings after becoming the first - and still only - Tennessee duo to win the NCAA doubles title.
Williams ended the regular season on a tear, winning his last four matches, including a straight-set victory against eighth-ranked Alexandre Lacroix of Florida. He defeated Javier Garrapiz 6-3, 6-3 at the No. 2 position to help the Vols defeat Georgia in the season finale, and he earned SEC Player of the Week honors as a result.
With his recent success, Williams moved past Kentucky's Eric Quigley to third in the singles rankings. Williams held the top ranking in January and February.
Smith wrapped up the SEC season with a 9-1 conference record. His last win clinched the Vols' first back-to-back conference titles in program history when he beat 16th-ranked Wil Spencer 7-5, 6-3 on court 1.
The SEC Tournament Awaits
The Vols practice on their home courts one more time before leaving Wednesday afternoon for the SEC Championships in Gainesville, Fla. As the No. 1 seed, they received a first-round bye and begin competition Friday against either Vanderbilt or Mississippi. The match is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Smith named to the SEC Men's Tennis Community Service Team
Smith was Tennessee's representative on the SEC Men's Tennis Community Service Team. Smith, who was Tennessee's nominee for the McWhorter Award, has been a frequent visitor to the Knoxville Children's Hospital during his career and is a member of Tennessee's Student Athlete Advisory Committee. He has helped with multiple tennis clinics in Knoxville and has also worked in the tennis community back home in Townsville, Australia.
No. 1 - Conkic/Smith
No. 52 - Sandgren/Williams
No. 89 - Conkic/Williams