May 19, 2009
Knoxville, Tenn. - A test of individual strength and endurance faces three Tennessee Volunteers tennis players when John-Patrick Smith, Boris Conkic and Davey Sandgren take to the court Wednesday as the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships begin at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center on the campus of Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.
The six-day tournament concludes May 25 with all matches being a best of three sets. Regular scoring and a 12-point tiebreaker at six games all will be used for all matches.
Smith (34-10) looks to reach the singles final for a second straight year after falling to the nation's No. 1 player in Virginia's Somdev Devarmann, 6-3, 6-2, in Tulsa, Okla., at last year's tournament. Smith made a spectacular run to the championship, defeating five ranked players, while playing only one three-set match.
For Conkic and Sandgren, it is their first taste of individual postseason action.
"Everyone is healthy and we've had some good days of preparation and practice," said Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham. "J.P. has a tough draw. But once you get to this level, there are no easy matches. We drew a tough opening match in doubles with Baylor's new tandem, but Davey and J.P. have played well down the stretch facing nine straight ranked opponents."
Seeded No. 6 after receiving the Southeastern Conference's automatic bid and ranked No. 5 in the Campbell/Intercollegiate Tennis Association singles rankings, Smith faces 20th-ranked Jean-Yves Aubone of Florida State in the first round at 2:30 p.m. ET. The winner moves on to the round of 32 to face the winner of North Carolina's No. 32 Clay Donato and Texas A&M's No. 47 Austin Krajicek.
Tulsa's Arnau Brugues is the No. 1 seed, followed by Oklahoma State's Okeksandr Nedovyesov, Bryan Koniecko of Ohio State, Denes Lukacs of Baylor and Kentucky's Bruno Agostinelli. Michael Venus of LSU is the seventh seed and USC's Robert Farah is the No. 8 seed.
Smith is battle-tested, having played 31 of his 44 matches this year against players in the singles draw, going 21-10. He is trying to become the first Volunteer to win the individual title since associate head coach Chris Woodruff took home the crown in 1993 as the No. 1 overall seed.
With a 5-1 in NCAA singles play, Smith has won his last seven matches while facing six straight ranked opponents, with five of those being in the top 20. A testament to his dominance is the fact he's only played six three-set matches with a 3-3 mark.
Conkic received an at-large bid after posting an equally impressive record this season of 29-8 and a 6-7 record against players in the singles draw. He has won 14 of his last 15 matches, seeing a career-best 12-match winning streak end in the SEC Tournament finals against Devin Britton of Ole Miss, 7-5, 6-4.
Conkic, ranked No. 37 by Campbell/ITA, takes on 86th-ranked Damon Gooch from Elon at 4 p.m. ET. The winner moves on to the round of 32 to take on the winner of the 17th-ranked Connor Pollock of Texas A&M versus No. 88 Aleksandr Seleznev of Old Dominion match.
Tennessee's third-ranked doubles tandem of Smith and Davey Sandgren are the No. 2 seed in the tournament and face 18th-ranked David Galic and Jordan Rux of Baylor (13-7) in the first round May 21 at a time to be announced. In fact, the top four seeded doubles teams are all from the SEC. Bram ten Berge and Jonas Berg of Ole Miss are the No. 1 seed, while LSU's Michael Venus and Neal Skupski are No. 3 followed by Georgia's Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg.
The winner of that match faces the winner of Alabama's Daniel Buikema and Mathieu Thibaudeau, ranked 23rd, and Boise State's 43rd-ranked duo of Kean Feeder and James Meredith match on Friday in the round of 16. Sandgren and Smith beat the Alabama pair 8-5 on April 3 in a dual match.
Smith and Sandgren, who went 28-11 and rank fifth on UT's single-season doubles victories list, posted a 12-9 mark against duos in the 32-team doubles championship field. Smith played with departed senior Kaden Hensel in doubles last year where they lost their opener in two heartbreaking tiebreakers to Ohio State's Drew Eberly and Justin Kronauge, 1-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(5).
Rodney Harmon and Mel Purcell own the only NCAA doubles title in school history as the pair won the championship in 1980 as the No. 1 overall seed.
NCAA Singles/Doubles Championships Schedule
Wednesday, May 20
(6) John-Patrick Smith, Tennessee vs. Jean-Yves Aubone, Florida State at 2:30 p.m. ET
Boris Conkic, Tennessee vs. Damon Gooch, Elon at 4 p.m. ET
Thursday, May 21
(2) John-Patrick Smith/Davey Sandgren, Tennessee vs. David Galic/Jordan Rux, Baylor at TBA