Tennys Sandgren, a sophomore from Gallatin, stretched his team-high winning streak to 17 matches Friday afternoon as the No. 4-ranked Tennessee men’s tennis team beat unranked South Carolina 7-0 at UT’s Barksdale Stadium.
Sandgren beat the Gamecocks’ Chip Cox 6-1, 6-3 at No. 3 singles and improved to 19-0 in two seasons of SEC matches. He was 10-0 in the SEC last season when he played No. 4.
“I feel like I’m playing the best tennis I’ve played in my life right now,” Sandgren said. “It feels really good.”
It comes as no surprise to UT coach Sam Winterbotham.
“He came in (to UT) really good,” Winterbotham said. “We knew we had a pretty special talent when he came in, but it’s incredible how much he’s matured. He’s grown and gotten so much better. It’s scary how good Tennys is going to be.”
UT (18-3, 8-1 SEC) didn’t lose a set against South Carolina (6-15, 1-8).
Sandgren, ranked No. 48 nationally, is 22-1 since January with his only loss a three-setter in the SEC Indoors against Florida’s Alexandre Lacroix, who plays No. 1 singles and is ranked 10th.
Sandgren won’t get a rematch against Lacroix when the Vols play host to Florida on Sunday in a pivotal SEC match.
UT moved sophomore Rhyne Williams into the No. 1 singles spot for this weekend’s matches with senior John-Patrick Smith dropping to No. 2.
Williams, who has spent the majority of the season at No. 2 singles, is 5-5 at the top spot this season and 1-1 in SEC matches.
“Rhyne and J.P. are legitimate No. 1s,” Winterbotham said. “We just felt Sunday was a better matchup with Rhyne playing Lacroix and J.P. playing (Sekou) Bangoura.”
Sandgren, meanwhile, will look to keep his winning streak alive.
“The SEC is probably the toughest conference in the country,” Sandgren said. “It puts a little more pressure on you and brings out your best game, knowing you have to bring it every week.”
Sandgren has been bringing it since his days in the juniors.
Before coming to UT, Sandgren played a number of Futures pro tournaments — which is allowed by NCAA rules as long as no prize money is accepted.
Sandgren, whose first name is the same as his great grandfather’s, will hit the pro circuit again this summer, and would like to return to UT in the fall.
“I’ll just see how it goes this summer,” Sandgren said. “Right now I’m planning on coming back. Barring really good results over the summer, I’ll be in orange in the fall.”
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.