May 29, 2010
Sandgren and Smith have faced -- and defeated -- four of the seven remaining opponents in the championship field earlier this season, including top-seeded Henrique Cunha and Reid Carleton of Duke.
In Saturday's quarterfinals, Sandgren and Smith play Wake Forest's Iain Atkinson and Steve Forman for the third time this season. The Tennessee duo defeated Atkinson and Forman 8-5 in the semifinals of the UVa Ranked Plus One Invitational in September. In more recent times, Sandgren and Smith won the second match 8-3 at Wake Forest during the dual match season in February.
The remaining doubles teams the Vols have faced? Sandgren and Smith defeated Kentucky's Brad Cox and Eric Quigley on two occasions. They also beat Drew Courtney and Michael Shabaz of Virginia 8-1 in the final of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
Sandgren and Smith enter Saturday with a 39-8 record this season and are just one win shy of tying the UT record for wins in a season of 40, set by Byron Talbot and Shelby Cannon in 1986.
Sandgren and Smith have 78 victories together over the last two seasons, which is the second-most career doubles wins by a pairing in program history. They had 32 wins last season.
Talbot and Cannon also hold the career doubles record of 102 wins, a mark not likely to be broken anytime soon. However, Smith is on pace to break Talbot's individual career doubles wins record of 131. Smith currently has 108 doubles victories and should reach that record in next spring.
A Look Back at the 2009 NCAA Doubles Tournament
In college tennis, it's somewhat uncommon to have a highly ranked doubles team for more than a season between graduating, transferring or leaving for the professional ranks. Sandgren and Smith are an exception to that vague observation.
Sandgren and Smith were finalists at the NCAA doubles championships last year and have the opportunity to make a deep run again in their final collegiate tournament together.
Here's a match-by-match breakdown of their 2009 NCAA tournament run:
Round of 32: Sandgren/Smith def. Galic/Rux, Baylor, 6-4, 6-2
Round of 16: Sandgren/Smith def. Feeder/Meredith, Boise State, 6-3, 7-5
Quarterfinals: Sandgren/Smith def. Forman/Parr, Wake Forest, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3
Semifinals: Sandgren/Smith def. Puetz/Tsyrenov, Auburn, 6-4, 6-2
Final: Inglot/Shabaz, Virginia def. Sandgren/Smith, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4
Finished at No. 3
Although the Vols (31-2) reached the final of the NCAA Tennis Championships for the third time in program history Tuesday, they finished the year ranked No. 3 in the ITA rankings.
Southern California, as national champions, were automatically ranked first. Virginia, which has been the top-ranked team for much of the year, was second. Tennessee followed in third. Texas and Ohio State rounded out the top five.
Still, Friday's ITA ranking was a five-place improvement for the Vols over 2009, in which they finished eighth. Four seasons ago, Sam Winterbotham took over a Tennessee program that had been ranked 50th in the country in 2006.
Some Kinda Fantastic
Rhyne Williams wrapped up one of the greatest freshman seasons in UT history Friday, ending his year in the round of 16 in the NCAA singles tournament.
He finished the season 41-7, which is the best freshman winning percentage in UT history (.854). The winning percentage is also the fourth-best on the main season list. He became just the second freshman to win 40 matches in a season, trailing just Peter Handoyo, who won 43 in 1999.
Williams, a Knoxville native, had a 5-1 singles record in Athens and was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team for his 3-0 performance at the No. 3 position in dual matches. By reaching the round of 16 in the singles draw, he earned All-America status.
40 and 40
Smith and Williams both finished with 41 singles victories, marking the second time in program history that two Vols have won at least 40 matches in a season. The last instance was in 1987 in which Talbot had 56 wins playing at the No. 2 position and Cannon ended with 43 playing at the No. 1.
The 2010 Vols have set numerous doubles records this season, most notably having two doubles pairings with more than 30 wins for the first time in program history. Sandgren and Smith have 39, and Williams and Boris Conkic finished with 34.
Three Vols have at least 40 doubles wins: Smith (44), Conkic (41) and Sandgren (40). Smith and Conkic won five matches together on their way to winning the ITA All-American Championships. Sandgren won one match with freshman Edward Jones, and Conkic picked up two more with Tennys Sandgren.