They’ve faced each other in junior tennis and in college and now in the pros.
It was another classic rematch Wednesday night between Rhyne Williams and Austin Krajicek.
Williams, former All-American at Tennessee, saved a match point in the third set on his way to a 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over Krajicek in the first round of the $50,000 Knoxville Challenger at Goodfriend Tennis Center.
“Austin and I go way back,” said the Knoxville-born Williams. “We’ve been playing each other since we were 11 and 12 years old. … We’re good buddies. It’s not very fun to play a friend so early in the tournament. I feel like I was pretty lucky to get through that. I’m happy to be in the second round.”
Krajicek broke Williams’ serve for a 5-3 lead in the third set. A service winner gave Krajicek a 40-30 lead and match point. Williams saved the match point with a forehand winner and then broke serve.
“My forehand really let me down early,” Williams said. “The first set I could not find it at all, which is really unusual. My forehand is usually extremely solid. It took me a while to find it, and thank goodness I did. I was in big trouble.”
Williams had 20 aces and four doubles faults. He had four aces in the opening game and served an ace on match point.
Williams faces No. 4 seed Mischa Zverev in a second-round match this afternoon and plays his first-round doubles match tonight with Tennys Sandgren, his former UT teammate.
Sandgren, who upset top-seeded Jesse Levine on Tuesday night, faces Switzerland’s Adrien Bossel this afternoon in a match that precedes Williams-Zverev.
“We’re used to playing day in and day out, so it won’t be any different for me (today),” Williams said.
J.P. Smith, four-year All-American at UT (2008-11), lost his first-round singles match Wednesday night to Bradley Klahn, 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-3.
It was the first career meeting between Smith and Klahn, who won the NCAA singles title in 2010 while playing for Stanford. Klahn is ranked No. 269 and Smith is 247.
With Smith serving at 3-4 in the third, Klahn broke serve for a 5-3 lead.
Klahn trailed 15-40 serving at 5-3, but rallied and held serve when Smith hit a backhand long on the fourth match point.
“To his credit, he played well,” Smith said. “He moved me well. There were a couple of things I would do differently, if I could go back, but overall, I fought back in the second set, and had a couple of opportunities in the third to get an early break but didn’t, and the last game as well.”
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.