May 6, 2009
Knoxville, Tenn. -- The so-called second season begins this weekend as the fifth-seeded University of Tennessee men's tennis team plays host to NCAA first and second round action at the Goodfriend Tennis Center Varsity Courts May 8-9.
The No. 51 Radford Highlanders (20-3), winners of the Big South Tournament, face the 23rd-ranked Duke Blue Devils (15-8) of the Atlantic Coast Conference in the opening match at 10 a.m. Friday. Following that match, the No. 5 Volunteers (21-6) take on in-state rival and Atlantic Sun Tournament champion East Tennessee State Buccaneers (13-7) at 1 p.m. The Vols beat the Bucs 6-1 in Knoxville to open the 2009 dual match season in January.
The winners of the first round matches face off Saturday at 3 p.m. with the victor moving on to the NCAA Team Championships at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station, Texas, May 14-19.
"We feel privilege to host," said Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham. "The University and athletics department does a great job. We are proud of the event and relish the opportunity for both the men's and women's teams to participate in it at home.
"We know every team in this field in extremely strong. We played ETSU, so we know how good they are. We are preparing for a tough opening match."
General admission tickets are $5, while student tickets will be $3 with ID. Children two-and-under will be admitted free of charge. Tickets may be purchased the day of the match at the gate and no advance tickets will be sold. Tickets will be sold as single day admissions and pass outs will be allowed. Gates will open one hour prior to the beginning of the match.
The tournament features a bevy of ranked players led by Tennessee sophomore John-Patrick Smith who is No. 5 nationally. His teammate and fellow sophomore, Boris Conkic, is rated at No. 37. Smith, a two-time first-team All-Southeastern Conference choice, received the league's automatic bid to complete in the NCAA Singles Tournament along with Conkic, May 20-25.
Freshman Reid Carleton, who plays at the No. 1 spot, is Duke's highest ranked player at No. 42, while junior teammate Kiril Dimitrov is 56th while playing at No. 2. Both received at-large bids for the NCAA Singles Championships.
Senior Enrique Olivares of ETSU, a four-time A-Sun First-Team member and two-time Player of the Year, is No. 18. The Buc captain was also an automatic qualifier in the 2009 NCAA Men's Singles Championship field for the second straight season.
Radford senior Martin Sayer is 102nd. The four-time Player of the Year in Big South, Sayer is Radford's all-time winningest player with a career singles record of 114-24. He also received an NCAA Singles invitation for the fourth straight year.
The action in doubles should be intense as well with Tennessee's third-ranked duo of Smith and Davey Sandgren and the 42nd-ranked tandem of Conkic and Matteo Fago proving to be a tough matchup for any team. Smith and Sandgren are the No. 2 seed for the NCAA Doubles Tournament.
Duke also boasts a pair of ranked doubles teams in No. 17 Dimitrov and Alain Michel and 90th-ranked Dylan Arnould and David Holland.
Sayer and Zachary Watson are Radford's highest rated team at No. 54, while ETSU's pair of Olivares and Alexander Eisler-Ahlgren are 62nd. Sayer and Watson became the first duo in Radford history to earn an at-large selection in the NCAA Doubles Championship.
Tennessee is making its 20th NCAA appearance and owns a 27-19 overall record, finishing runner-up in 1990 and 2001. The Vols, who are making their third straight appearance under Winterbotham and hosting for the second consecutive year, reached the round of 16 last season, falling to the No. 9-seed Baylor Bears in Tulsa, Okla.
The Vols are hosting NCAA first and second round matches for the seventh time in the last 11 years. The Vols own an 11-1 mark in NCAA action in Knoxville and have won 10 consecutive matches. The only team to beat UT on its home court in the postseason is Mississippi State in 1999 in the second round, 4-3.
Tennessee went 15-6 against squads in the 64-team field. The Vols played 14 matches against nine of the top 14 national seeds in the tournament, going 8-6. UT played matches against No. 1 Virginia, No. 2 Ole Miss, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Georgia, No. 6 Baylor, No. 10 Florida, No. 11 Kentucky, No. 13 Illinois and No. 14 Alabama.
Tennessee has never played Radford and last played Duke in 2005, a 6-1 win by the Blue Devils in Durham. The Vols are 8-6 all-time against Duke, but have never played in the NCAA tournament.
Live results and a tournament central web page can be found at www.utsports.com.