Oct. 21, 2009
BY AMANDA PRUITT
Freshman Rhyne Williams has his Tennessee career off to a fast start since joining the squad this semester.
Through three tournaments this fall, the Knoxville native is 10-2 in singles, with five of the victories coming against ranked opponents. Williams joined junior John-Patrick Smith as the only Vols to win a singles title this season when he defeated junior teammate Matteo Fago in the championship of the Georgia Tech Fall Tournament on Oct. 5.
The next tournament stop for the Vols is the ITA Regionals in Bloomington, Ind., which begins Thursday. Williams, who is riding a five-match winning streak, discusses tournament preparations and Knoxville life in this week's Q&A.
Q: How are you getting ready for the regionals?
A: Same old, same old. Just getting up every morning and doing the normal practice routine. We've been lifting a lot and working really hard on the track, so it's going good. I feel that all of us as a team are getting fitter and stronger, so hopefully we can all carry that into this next tournament.
Q: Having taken a few weeks off from competition, what are your expectations for this tournament?
A: My body's feeling great right now, just because we've had a couple weeks off. I feel like I'm playing good tennis, and I just want to play my game when I go in there. I want to give it my best effort, and we'll see how it goes results-wise.
Q: You and Boris had a good run a few weeks ago at the UVa Invitational. What's it like playing with him in doubles?
A: It's great. We fit well together because we're a really good returning team, and we have really good ground strokes. It's hard for the other team to play us because we return so well and we're making it to so many balls. Our volleys can get a lot better, and so can our serves. That's something we've been working on.
Q: You're the only player besides J.P. to win a singles event this year. What does that mean for you?
A: It was really special. Obviously, J.P.'s event was one of the biggest all year. But to be the other guy to win an event is great. It was really nice to win the tournament, no matter what the level is. It's given me a lot of confidence. I feel like I'm playing better and better each week. Hopefully that will carry into this weekend.
Q: We still have a few months until team play starts. What are you looking forward to most?
A:Just being on the court with everyone at the same time. Being on one big row of courts and being able to cheer each other on. I'm really looking forward to that. I think it will be really exciting, and it'll get everyone fired up and ready to go. I think it'll be a ball.
Q: Have you ever done team play like that before?
A: Yeah, once or twice in the juniors. It was a little sectional tournament, like Southern versus Northern, but nothing this extreme.
Q: Your grandfather coached here for a long time. Your uncle played here. What's it like to be a part of that tradition?
A: It's nice. My grandfather has had a big influence on my game, and obviously, he influenced me to come to school here. I've been a big UT fan my whole life because of that. I also grew up here. I love Knoxville, and I love being a Vol.
Q: So you already had a lot of orange clothes before coming here?
A: Yeah. Definitely.
Q: Being from Knoxville, what are some of the advantages of going to school here?
A: Knowing where the good spots to eat are. We have a night class on Wednesday, and after that, five or six of us will take off and head towards my house and get a good bite of sushi. That's what we've been doing lately. The food is definitely important, and having family close by is nice. I can see them on weekends.