Oct. 1, 2009
BY CHRIS WHITE
The number two ranked player in Division I men's tennis, junior John-Patrick Smith won both the singles and doubles titles at the Virginia Invitational. The Townsville, Australia native talks about that tournament and about himself in this Q&A:
How exciting was it to win two titles at the Virginia Invitational?
"It was good. It shows how much our hard work we've done during the fall paid off. Overall, I think we as a team had a great tournament as well."
Going in to the tournament, what did you think your chances were? Did you think that you would win?
"Yeah, I was the high seed in the tournament and I thought that if I played well I had a good chance to win the tournament, especially in doubles."
Speaking of doubles, what makes you and Davey Sandgren a good doubles team?
"I think our games really complement one another. We both have big serves and we're quick to reach the net. I think that's what's helped us so far."
What is your greatest strength on the court and what is something that you need to improve on?
"Definitely one of my greatest strengths is my serve and my volley. I do need to improve my backhand. I've been working with the coaches a lot and I think every day it's getting better."
Did you and Davey get a chance to play together over the summer?
"No we didn't, we went different ways this summer. I did summer school and ended up going back home and relaxing. It was actually weird playing together for the first time since the NCAA's - getting used to the different formations again and different plays. But after a couple of weeks of practice, I think we're back to normal again."
Which court surface do you prefer to play upon?
"Definitely hard court. It really enhances my serve and my mobility as well. I like it especially since all tournaments in college are played on hard court."
Do you plan to play tennis professionally after you graduate?
"Yeah, definitely. I'd love to go out and give it my best shot and hopefully make it in the professional ranks."
Townsville, Australia is a world away from Knoxville, Tennessee. Why did you decide to come to UT?
"The coaches here did a great job of recruiting me. I also had a friend who played on the team here my first semester, and he really gave me a rundown about the great atmosphere, especially the great sporting environment that UT promotes. I thought that it would really benefit me coming here, especially the facilities and the coaching staff. It wasn't really a hard decision."
Was coming to the U.S. a major culture shock for you?
"Yeah, it was different for me. You can't really be told what a place is going to be like, you just have to go there and experience it. The first thing that hit me when I got to Knoxville was the different environment, the facilities and the culture of sports, being down south and all. I've really liked it so far and I'm glad I came."
Living in the South, have you picked up on any southern words like "ya'll" or "howdy?"
"I have, but I can't really see incorporating it into my vocabulary yet. I think I probably will after this year, being here two and a half years now. But I think my accent is starting to wear off a little bit."
Nope, it's definitely still there, so you don't have anything to worry about.
Vegemite is one of the most awful things that I have ever eaten, yet many Australians seem to like it. Are you a fan?
"Oh yeah I am, you grow up eating it there. It's one of traditional things in Australia. It's just one of those cultural things that you have to get used to. As a young child, my parents had it a lot, so it's either something you like or you hate."