Nov. 4, 2013
Former All-Americans Rhyne Williams, John-Patrick Smith and Tennys Sandgren are back on their collegiate home courts at Goodfriend Tennis Center this week for the Knoxville Challenger.
The USTA Pro Circuit main draw tournament begins Tuesday with Smith and Sandgren set to play featured evening matches.
Sandgren plays Denys Molchanov of the Ukraine in a match that starts not before 5:30 p.m. Following Sandgren's match, Smith faces doubles partner and fellow Australian Sam Groth.
Williams doesn't play until Wednesday, when he will take on 21-year-old American Ryan Harrison.
The three Vols are wrapping up their third year on the pro tennis circuit after ending their UT careers in 2011 following back-to-back SEC championship seasons.
The Vols' No. 1 and 2 singles players, Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese, were unable to play in the tournament because of their participation in this week's USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in New York. They are the No. 1-seeded doubles team in the national tournament and will both play singles as well.
The Knoxville Challenger is the second of three indoor tournaments played at college venues to finish the USTA Pro Circuit schedule. The Charlottesville Challenger was last week on Virginia's courts. Illinois hosts the Champaign Challenger to close the year next week. For more on the returning All-Americans:
Singles Ranking: 120
Doubles Ranking: 160
2013 in Review: Williams has climbed nearly 100 spots up the rankings since playing in this event a year ago. He played in the singles main draw of three Grand Slams: the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. He won the $100,000 Dallas Challenger this year, his first career Challenger-level singles title. He also reached the semifinals of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships, an ATP 250 event. He picked up a doubles title at the Tiburon Challenger with Austin Krajicek.
Years at UT: 2010-11
Tennessee Career Highlights: Two-time All-American during his two seasons for the Vols ... 2011 NCAA singles finalist and 2010 USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Champion ... Held No. 1 singles ranking in February and March 2011 ... Career winning percentage of .830 ranks fourth in UT history (.830) ... Southeastern Conference Rookie of the Year as a freshman in 2010 ... Turned pro after sophomore season.
Singles Ranking: 220
Doubles Ranking: 76
2013 in Review: John-Patrick Smith became the 13th Vol in program history to reach the top 100 in the ATP rankings of singles or doubles, when he cracked into doubles top 100. He has been ranked as high as 69 this year and appeared in all four Grand Slams in doubles, winning matches at two of them. He's shown off his doubles versatility this year, having won at least a match with 10 different partners on his way to six titles. He also won a Canada Futures singles title.
Years at UT: 2008-11
Tennessee Career Highlights: One of the most decorated athletes in UT history in any sport ... Second-player in the history of college tennis to be an All-American in singles and doubles all four years of his career, joining USC's Rick Leach ... Held No. 1 national collegiate ranking in singles and doubles during his career ... 2011 Southeastern Conference Athlete of the Year and the back-to-back Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in tennis 2010 and 2011 ... four-time first-team All-SEC recipient ... Part of the ITA Doubles Team of the Year twice (2009 with Davey Sandgren, 2011 with Boris Conkic) ... Tennessee's all-time combined career wins leader with 298 victories (152 singles, 146 doubles).
Singles Ranking: 243
Doubles Ranking: 147
2013 in Review: Tennys Sandgren has picked up three titles this year with Austin Krajicek, two of them on the Challenger circuit. He's reached the quarterfinals or better at five Challenger events in 2013, reaching the semifinals of the San Luis Potosi Challenger in Mexico. He was a quarterfinalist at the Knoxville Challenger a year ago.
Years at UT: 2010-11
Tennessee Career Highlights: Most memorable accomplishment occurred at the end of the 2011 season, where he made a run to the NCAA singles semifinals before losing to teammate Rhyne Williams in three sets ... Ranks third in UT history in career singles winning percentage at .833 (60-12) ... Played just three seasons at Tennessee, arriving in January 2010 to help the Vols to the NCAA team final ... Two-time All-SEC.