Dec. 17, 2010
Tennessee sophomore Rhyne Williams upset the No. 2 seed Friday to advance to the semifinals at the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff at the Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Ga.
Williams moved a step closer to a potential main-draw berth into the Australian Open by defeating Tim Smyczek 6-4 6-0 in the opening round of the eight-player tournament.
He faces third-seeded Ryan Harrison on Friday. Harrison beating the tournament's only other collegiate participant, Virginia's Michael Shabaz, 7-6 (3), 6-7 (4), 6-4 in the first round.
The champion of the playoff receives a wild card into the main draw of the Australian Open in January.
Williams said was nervous to start the match, but his serve was sharp from the beginning. He faced one break point at 4-4 and held. After the hold, Williams immediately went up 0-30 and broke Smyczek the next game to win the first set 6-4.
"In that last game, I think he was upset about not breaking me when he had the chance," Williams said.
Williams started where he left off in the second set. He held and then broke Smyczek to start, and he cruised from there, taking the set 6-0 to advance.
In the semifinals, Williams takes on a familiar opponent in Harrison. The two faced each other in the Junior US Open several years ago, a match Williams won in three and a half hours.
"I know Ryan Harrison's game really well, and it should be a fun match," Williams said.
In addition to playing on the junior circuit, Williams and Harrison more recently hit together in Florida while training for the event. Williams left for Bradenton to prepare for the wild card tournament immediately after finishing his finals at UT. He spent six days hitting with professionals during his stay.
An improved service game has spelled the difference for Williams the last month. He worked his groundstrokes to full effect on his way to the singles championship at the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships to end the fall season, but he said he felt his serving really turned a corner while playing the first round at the Knoxville Challenger in mid-November.
"I feel like I'm playing even better since the National Indoors," Williams said. "I've especially been serving better lately, and it's definitely improved my overall game."
USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff
Racquet Club of the South
Jack Sock def. (1) Donald Young, 76(3), 36, 64
Denis Kudla def. (4) Jordan Cox, 64, 63
(3) Ryan Harrison def. Michael Shabaz, 76(3), 67(4), 64
Rhyne Williams def (2) Tim Smyczek, 64, 60
Jack Sock vs. Denis Kudla
Rhyne Williams vs. (3) Ryan Harrison