Vols men's tennis open NCAA ousting Radford

Playing surface doesn't matter

Tennessee’s Boris Conkic hits a shot against Radford on Friday afternoon during the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Photo by ELIZABETH OLIVIER / UTSPORTS.COM

Tennessee’s Boris Conkic hits a shot against Radford on Friday afternoon during the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Tennessee's Boris Conkic hits a shot against Radford on Friday afternoon during the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The road back to the national finals opened with a false start.

It would have taken more than a little bad weather to slow down Tennessee, though.

The third-seeded Vols only briefly had a chance to play outside in the first round of the NCAA men's tennis championships on Friday afternoon before the thunder and rain rolled into Barksdale Stadium, but indoors or out they had no problems cruising past Radford 4-0 to set up a second-round meeting today with Virginia Tech at 3 p.m.

"It always seems to be a commonality, when the NCAA tournament rolls around here we always play indoors," senior John-Patrick Smith said. "The last four years, I always remember finishing the second round indoors. We're kind of getting used to it by now.

"The good thing about it is the Knoxville weather is always so inconsistent, we always practice indoors and outdoors so it's not that hard getting used to it."

UT had no problem acclimating after the downpour arrived early in the doubles matches, with Smith and Boris Conkic cruising to an 8-2 victory and Tennys Sandgren and Rhyne Williams posting an 8-3 win to clinch the opening point.

Smith and Conkic piled on from there, easily dispatching Radford's Ivan Salec and Joe Mills in singles with Sandgren providing the other point to set up the date this afternoon with the Hokies.

There's a chance for more precipitation again in the second round, but that obviously didn't do much to faze the Vols in the opener as they try to get back to the title match for the second straight year.

"There's adjustments that have to be made absolutely, but both teams have made those adjustments for a long time," UT coach Sam Winterbotham said. "They've gone indoors, they've gone outdoors, and they know how they to prepare for themselves to make the few adjustments they have to make - they know what to do. This was all about effort.

"The majority of our guys were ready and they were prepared and they gave us great effort. Then we just had some guys that were scoreboard-watching and not thinking they had to give great effort. For some reason they felt it was someone else's day today to carry the team. That was as clear as day. We've discussed it and they won't do that again."

The Vols might not have been at their best on other courts while Smith, Conkic and Sandgren were firmly in control of their matches, and that clearly bothered Winterbotham and led to a lengthy meeting with his team after it finished off Radford.

But it wasn't the change of venue or temporary break in rhythm that seemed to irritate Winterbotham, particularly since that's nothing new for the veteran Vols.

"Especially us seniors, we've gone from indoors to outdoors so many times during the past four years, and it's just a normal thing for us now," Conkic said. "We change so many surfaces and so many courts, I don't think it bothers us anymore.

"There are small adjustments. I would say indoors you have to be a little more aggressive, but these are our courts and we know them pretty well. There are small adjustments we are all ready to make when we move. I think we did that, and that's what (Winterbotham) tells us every day - you just have to take care of business."

After one momentary delay, the first order of business is officially out of the way.

Austin Ward may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 1

bUTchVFL writes:

Go tennis vols! Let's win it all this year.

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