UT's foe not so foreign to Rhyne Williams

Rhyne Williams chats after workouts

PALO ALTO, Calif. - Rhyne Williams could ask for some input about his next opponent from a teammate with a winning experience against him.

The Tennessee sophomore also has a coaching staff that has put together a couple of scouting reports on the guy that are at his disposal.

But given his own background with the familiar face on the other side of the net when the No. 3 Vols take the court today against No. 14 California in the third round of the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships, Williams will probably be just fine working off his knowledge of former Florida standout Carlos Cueto.

"The funny thing is actually I flew over to Spain for about six weeks when I was 15 or 16 and spent about four weeks practicing with this guy," Williams said after working out Wednesday at Stanford. "We played doubles together at a couple pro tournaments out there, so I know his game really well.

"It's pretty funny that he came to school over here. He's from Spain and grew up playing on red clay, and now he's over here playing in college. It's a small world."

The Spaniard has certainly seen plenty of it in his young career, which in the collegiate game started with the Gators and featured SEC Freshman of the Year Honors in 2009 before he developed tendinitis and eventually transferred to join the Golden Bears.

Cueto's previous stop with a division rival should give UT a more substantial scouting report than it might have for the rest of a team it hasn't played in nearly 20 years. Senior John-Patrick Smith has a couple of head-to-head victories to his credit that could provide a working blueprint. But Smith's game has some notable differences than that of the guy battling with Cueto this morning. And Williams has more than enough information filed away not to need much help breaking down his game.

"I think it works both ways," UT coach Sam Winterbotham said. "Carlos knows Rhyne very well too. We know Carlos, we've seen him play (Smith), he's played him a number of times, our team has played him a number of times, and he's very good.

"But they have a bunch of good players. This is a very talented California team. In terms of scouting, we all do our homework. By this time of year, we know each other very well - even though we haven't seen each other, we've talked to people that we trust that know them."

Against teams the Vols don't usually face, they don't really have a choice but to lean on those confidants as they formulate a game plan.

Of course, having previous experience or intimate knowledge of an opponent's style can provide a nice boost. But at this stage of the year, in some respects the UT coaching staff is also trying to keep a simple approach and let its players focus on their strengths instead of possible weaknesses on the other half of the court.

"If we're trying to, as coaches, find a way to motivate or we're still trying to figure out the team we have, then we're in trouble," Winterbotham said. "This time of year the guys have hit enough tennis balls, they should be in good enough shape.

"They should be focused, and it's very simple for us. We're not working on anything specific with any one guy. We don't need to do that. Their games are hopefully firing on all cylinders right now."

The last time Williams was on the court, his game could hardly have looked sharper.

And the next time he picks up the racket, it will be up to an old teammate to try to slow him down.

"We know it's all business once you get on the court," Williams said. "You can be friends once you get off the court, but once you get on the court you are going to do your best to beat the heck out of the other guy."

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Comments » 1

LJS1984 writes:

At least one men's team is successful at Tennessee. This time of year though we should be reading about an SEC baseball tournament seeding or the Vols chances of hosting an NCAA regional. Those were the years prior to Hamilton though.

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