Third-set breakthrough propels sandgren, Smith to semifinals
THIRD-SET BREAKTHROUGH PROPELS SANDGREN, SMITH TO SEMIFINALS
(Vol duo ties UT record with 40th victory of the season)
ATHENS, Ga. Tennessees Davey Sandgren and John-Patrick Smith turned up their return game late Saturday to advance to the semifinals of the NCAA doubles tournament.
Sandgren and Smith lasted two sets without breaking their opponents serve, but came through in the third set to defeat Wake Forests Iain Atkinston and Steve Forman 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3 in the quarterfinals at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
We got that big break in the third set, which was really important, Sandgren said. They played a great second set, and the tiebreaker in the first was intense, but Im glad we pulled it off.
With the victory, Sandgren and Smith improved to 40-8 and tied Byron Talbot and Shelby Cannons 1986 school record for doubles wins in a season.
The Vols duo will face Clay Donato and Stefan Hardy of North Carolina in Sundays semifinal match. Last year, Sandgren and Smith reached the NCAA championship match before falling in three sets to Virginias Dominic Inglot and Michael Shabaz.
Both teams had little trouble holding serve in the first set, which Smith and Sandgren ended up winning in a 7-4 tiebreaker. In the second set, Atkinson and Forman broke Sandgrens serve at 6-5 and to force a third set.
Sandgren and Smith finally got their shot at a break in the third set, taking advantage of Formans second serves to go up 3-1. The Vols later jumped ahead 5-1 after breaking Wake Forest a second time.
Wake Forest broke back and held serve to close the gap to 5-3, but Smith served out the match to take one step closer in the Vols bid for a national title.
We wanted to focus on our service games, and a big strategy was to start making a lot of returns because we missed a lot of returns early on, Sandgren said. We did a lot of both and came out on top.
The victory was Sandgren and Smiths third against the Wake Forest duo this season. Saturdays match was by far the closest. Sandgren and Smith won 8-5 in a fall tournament and 8-3 in a dual match at Wake Forest in February.
Smith said because he and Sandgren were playing on their third court location in as many days, it took some time adjusting to the playing surface. They had their first-round match on one of the six backup McWhorter Courts, and their second round took place on the lower level of the championship Henry Feild Courts.
Saturday, they moved to the upper tier of the Henry Feild Courts where the main grandstands are located.
We finally found our range towards the end, Smith said. It was going to take us awhile to get used to it, but once we did, it was very good for us.
NCAA Tennis Championships
Sandgren/Smith (2), UT, def. Atkinson/Forman, Wake Forest, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3
Sandgren/Smith (2), UT, vs. Donato/Hardy, North Carolina