May 29, 2010
Andy Johnston, Special to NCAA.com
ATHENS, Ga. – Davey Sandgren had one goal Saturday.
“I’m going to take an ice bath,” he said. “I’m tired.”
Playing in the early afternoon heat on a day when temperatures soared to the upper 80s, Tennessee’s second-seeded doubles team of Sandgren and John-Patrick Smith advanced to the semifinals with a 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-3 victory over Wake Forest’s Iain Atkinson and Steven Forman at the NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
They’ll meet North Carolina’s unseeded Clay Donato and Stefan Hardy, who knocked off Kentucky’s Brad Cox and Eric Quigley 6-3, 6-1.
Sandgren and Smith lost 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 to Virginia’s Michael Shabaz and Dominic Inglot the final last year, and they are determined to return, especially after the Volunteers lost to Southern California in the men’s team final Tuesday night.
Saturday was the third time Sandgren and Smith had defeated Atkinson and Forman this season, joining an 8-5 victory in the semifinals of the Virginia Ranked Plus One Invitational last September and an 8-3 win at Wake Forest in February.
The Volunteers knew what to expect but weren’t initially ready for Wake Forest’s booming serves. They dropped the first set to Atkinson and Forman, who is the only player in school history to reach the quarterfinals of the NCAAs three times.
“It was a big serving match,” Sandgren said. “They served extremely well, and it was hard to break them. We had to find our rhythm on their return. We got that big break in the third set, which was really important. We played a great second set, and the first tiebreaker was intense, but I’m glad we pulled it out.”
The victory was their 40th of the season – against only eight defeats – which tied the school record as they improved to 7-1 in the NCAA championships.
Smith came in as the top-ranked player in the country but struggled in the team tournament. He beat Louisville’s Austen Childs 6-2, 6-2 in the round of 16 but then struggled against Baylor’s Denes Lukacs in a match that wasn’t finished, lost to Georgia’s Javier Garrapiz in the semifinals and then lost to Southern California’s Robert Farah in the final.
In the first round of the singles, Smith, who was seeded third, dropped a 6-1, 6-1 decision to Childs.
He has played well in doubles, though. Smith and Sandgren knocked off William and Mary’s Keziel Juneau and Sebastien Vidal and Oklahoma State’s Aleksey Bessonov and Oleksandr Nedovyesov to reach the quarterfinals.
“I feel like we’re getting into it,” Sandgren said. “I feel like we’re getting better each match. So I can’t wait to see how well we play in the semis.”
Tennessee controlled the third set, going up 3-1 by breaking Wake Forest’s serve. A game later, the Volunteers broke serve again, going up 5-1 on a double fault.
Wake Forest came back with two straight victories, but with Smith serving, Tennessee took the match when Sandgren hit a shot that couldn’t be handled. “We finally found our range toward the end,” Smith said. “It took us a while to get used to them. We kind of gutted through the end there.”
In a singles quarterfinal match, Robert Farah, who led Southern California to the men’s team title, had to retire with an injured ankle. He was trailing top-seeded Henrique Cunha of Duke 4-1 in the first set. Cunha will play Stanford’s Bradley Klahn in the semifinals.