May 9, 2009

*Courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Knoxville, Tenn. - In a match that was moved indoors midway through the doubles match due to rain, the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers showed they could play in any environment as they defeated the No. 23 Duke Blue Devils, 4-1, to advance to the third round of the NCAA Men's Tournament.

Tennessee (23-6) advances to the round of 16 where it faces the No. 12 Texas Longhorns (21-6) at Texas A&M's George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station, Texas, May 14-19. The Vols and Longhorns, who last met in 2002 in the NCAA Tournament round of 16, play the first match of the day at 10 a.m. ET. Texas swept Sacred Heart and Washington in its first two rounds.

The Vols, who have won 12 straight NCAA Tournament matches at home, received a tough battle in singles play, winning two three-set matches at No. 2 and No. 4, while their No. 1 and fifth-ranked player, John-Patrick Smith, survived a scare with Duke's Reid Carlton, 6-3, 7-5.

"Duke played a tremendous tennis match, but our guys are tough and they've showed that all year," said Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham. "When they needed to step up they did.

"This region was as tough as any in the country. Duke played well and is a talented team. The same can be said of ETSU yesterday. We are battled tested now going into the final rounds."

Davey Sandgren clinched the match at No. 4, winning 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2, over Jared Pinsky. After battling from a 5-4 deficit in the first set to force, Sandgren came up just short, losing 7-5 in the tiebreaker. But he regrouped by jumping out to early leads in the second and third sets en route to the win.

No. 37 Boris Conkic also won a tough three-setter at No. 2, defeating Kiril Dimitrov, ranked No. 56, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. Conkic seemed to be on his way to a straight-set win, leading 4-1 in the second, but Dimitrov was able to win the final five games to force the deciding set. In the third, Conkic returned the favor by winning the final five games to give UT a 3-1 team lead.

Smith took the first set against the 42nd-ranked Carleton fairly easily, 6-3, after taking a 5-2 advantage. Carleton then showed why he is a top 50 player as he took a 5-4 lead over in the second, but Smith was able to hold serve and win the final two points to give Tennessee its first singles win and a 2-1 lead.

"I was comfortable in the first set," said Smith. "He played better in the second set. I missed a couple of easy points and break points but I knew if I held onto my serve, my game would get me through. The environment here was great this weekend.

"It's always hard to stay focused during rain, moving from out indoors it's a big change with the speed of the courts. Winning doubles was huge because we haven't lost a match yet with the doubles points. The top four guys in our lineup stepped up and really gave it their all.

Duke tallied its only point in Dylan Arnould's 6-2, 7-5, victory over Matteo Fago at No. 3.

The No. 5 and No. 6 matches had just gotten underway when the match was finalized.

Tennessee captured a tough point at doubles as its No. 2 and 42nd-ranked tandem of Conkic and Fago broke the serve of Arnould and David Holland to clinch it at 8-6. Trailing twice at 4-2 and 5-3, Conkic and Fago won three straight games to take a 6-5 lead. The teams split the next two games before UT was able to snap a 6-6 tie and break serve once the match moved indoors.

UT's No. 3 pair of Smith and Sandgren won 8-5 over Duke's 71st-ranked duo of Dimitrov and Alain Michel at No. 1. Both teams played neck-and-neck through the first six games at 3-3 before Tennessee won three straight games, including breaking serve to take a 5-3 lead and control of the match.

Duke's Carleton and Torsten Wietoska rallied twice from 3-2 and 4-3 deficits to build a 6-4 lead en route to their 8-6 victory over Matt Brewer and Bryan Swartz at No. 3.