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Tennis: Hubble, Nielsen Fall in Challenger Final

Nov. 14, 2011

Former Vol Adam Hubble and Frederik Nielsen had three match point opportunities but could not close the deal Sunday in the doubles final of the Knoxville Challenger.

Back in a Challenger title match for the first time in 15 months, Hubble and his partner Nielsen lost 3-6, 6-4, [13-11] to Americans Steve Johnson and Austin Krajicek at Goodfriend Tennis Center.

"If you'd have said at the start of the week that we were going to make the final, yeah, you'd take it 100 times, but obviously the initial loss still hurts a little bit right now being so close," Hubble said. "We had a lot of chances there in the second set and in the super tiebreak, but just didn't get it. They played well as well."

After splitting sets, the match went into a 10-point tiebreaker to determine the winner. Hubble and Nielsen led 9-6 -- a point away from the title -- when Johnson and Krajicek rallied to take the final frame 13-11.

Hubble, who lettered for Tennessee from 2006-07, is in the midst of a career comeback after missing the first nine months of 2011 with an elbow injury. He had not won a Challenger-level match until this week back on his old home courts.

"I'm feeling alright, serving back at 100 percent again power-wise, and just doing all the right things, icing every day and looking after the body," Hubble said.

Hubble and Nielsen played together for the first time in last week's Challenger event in Charlottesville, Va. The two decided to team up for the final three 2011 USTA Pro Circuit tournaments in Charlottesville, Knoxville and next week in Champaign, Ill.

"I played with Freddie last week for the first time, but we'd seen each other around at different tournaments and practiced together, so we weren't completely foreign to each other."

With Sunday's final appearance, Hubble's ATP World Doubles Ranking jumped from No. 715 to No. 565. Before his elbow injury, he had been ranked as high as No. 146, so he faces the long road back regaining the tour points he lost during his time off.



"The win today would have helped a lot," Hubble said. "Unfortunately we didn't get it, but hopefully next week we can get a few more points on the board."

Two Vols, John-Patrick Smith and Ben Rogers, have already made the trip to the last stop on the USTA Pro Circuit: the JSM Challenger of Champaign, Ill. The tournament is the third leg of a three-week tour of indoor college tennis facilities, with the JSM Challenger being played on the University of Illinois' home courts, where the Vols defeated the Illini 5-2 in February.

Smith won his first two qualifying matches and is just one win away from the main draw of the $50,000 event. He beat Cheng-Peng Hsieh 7-5, 6-3 on Saturday and then collected a hard-fought 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3 win Sunday over fellow Australian Carsten Ball, the sixth seed in qualifying.

Smith plays second-seeded American Tim Smyczek on Monday. Qualifiers into the main draw earn three tour points.

Smith has a shot of making the main draw in doubles as well. He and Rogers defeated Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski 6-4, 4-6, [10-3]. They face Uladzimir Ignatik and Denis Matsukevich on Monday.

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