Sunday, July 3, 2011

The great (but confusing) state of Tennis-see

   Regarding the Tennessee men's tennis team, appearances were deceiving in the recent NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Championships at Stanford.
   When Rhyne Williams met fellow Volunteers sophomore Tennys Sandgren in the singles semifinals, both wore their school colors of orange (shirt) and white (shorts). The back of Williams’ shirt said “SANDGREN” in white letters, and vice versa for Sandgren.
   “It was Sam’s (Volunteers coach Sam Winterbotham’s) idea,” said Williams, the world’s eighth-ranked junior before enrolling at Tennessee. “He handed out shirts with names on them before the tournament. We're playing for each other. We’re all Tennessee. I had Sandgren's shirt on because it was working.”
   Furthermore, Sandgren is not named after tennis.
   “It was my great-grandfather’s name,” Sandgren, from Gallatin, Tenn., was quoted as saying in the team’s media guide. “He was also Tennys Sandgren. He did not play tennis. No relation to the sport of tennis. It’s Swedish. And a family name.”
   A box on Sandgren’s page in the media guide is devoted to the subject because he has been asked about his first name so often.
   “I’ve figured it out now – the more that people know, that’s one less person I have to tell,” he continued. “Eventually, I can knock out a few thousand, and we won’t have to discuss it anymore. That’s the plan.”
   Williams, seeded fourth, defeated the unseeded Sandgren 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 before losing to top-seeded Steve Johnson of USC 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
   In the preceding team competition, third-seeded Tennessee fell to No. 6 Georgia 4-3 in the quarterfinals. The match came down to No. 1 singles as the Volunteers’ John-Patrick Smith, a senior left-hander from Australia, fell victim to illness and cramping late in the third set and lost to Wil Spencer 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.
   Smith, an NCAA finalist in singles in 2008 and doubles in 2009 and 2010 (both with Davey Sandgren, Tennys’ older brother), vomited behind the baseline at 5-5 in the third set while Spencer was serving. Both players then began cramping.
   Tennessee has some notable tennis alumni. Associate head coach Chris Woodruff, a Volunteers Tennis Hall of Famer, stunned third-ranked Andre Agassi in the second round of the 1996 French Open on clay and reached a career-high No. 29 in the world the following year.
   Agassi recalled the match in his superb 2009 autobiography, "Open."
   Agassi, who still hadn't recovered from his emotionally devastating loss to Pete Sampras in the U.S. Open final nine months beforehand, wrote that Woodruff "always reminds me of a country-western singer, and plays as if he'd rather be performing at a rodeo. He's even more awkward on clay, and to compensate he gets aggressive, especially on his backhand.
   "I can't counter his aggression. I make sixty-three unforced errors. He reacts with unbridled joy, and I gaze at him, coveting not his victory but his enthusiasm."
   Paul Annacone, another Tennessee Hall of Famer, has coached the two leaders in men’s Grand Slam singles titles. He works with Roger Federer (16) after having guided Sampras (14) from 1996 to 2001 and in 2002.
   Annacone was no slouch as a player, either. A relentless serve-and-volleyer from Southampton, N.Y.,  he climbed to No. 12 in the world in singles in 1986 and No. 3 in doubles in 1987, teaming with Christo Van Rensburg of South Africa to win the 1985 Australian Open.

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