Four different current or former Vol tennis players competed Wednesday at the Knoxville Challenger professional tennis tournament at the Goodfriend Tennis Center.
The current No. 61 player in the world, and former Tennessee All-American, Tennys Sandgren, returned to Knoxville by knocking off Henri Laaksonen in two straight sets.
“It’s always great coming back to Knoxville to play,” Sandgren said. “This year I’ve traveled a bunch, so it’s nice to get in the car and travel two and a half hours and seeing the fall colors, and it’s just really nice to be here.”
In the first set, Sandgren and Laaksonen were tied at three-games each. Laaksonen led 40-0 in the seventh game before Sandgren came back and won the game. Taking a crucial 4-3 lead was the turning point in the match as Sandgren wouldn’t lose another game, defeating Laaksonen 6-3, 6-0.
“That hole wasn’t good to be in,” Sandgren said. “I just kind of grinded my way out of the game, and maybe he got a little tight and his level dropped for a minute and I was able to hold. That kind of switched the momentum.”
Sandgren will return to action on Thursday against Blaz Rola.
Current Tennessee All-American Timo Stodder fell to Jason Jung 6-1, 6-3 in consecutive singles sets.
Stodder wasn’t done for the day though, as he and current Vol All-American Preston Touliatos competed in doubles against Christopher Eubanks and Mitchel Kreuger.
The Tennessee combo pulled off the upset, defeating their professional opponents in consecutive sets, 7-6, 6-4.
The victory was an important one for Touliatos, as it marked the first professional win for the Tennessee senior.
“It was a lot of fun,” Touliatos said. “It was very nerve wracking starting out, but I’m extremely excited to get it under my belt and I’m looking forward to the next one.”
The second set was tied 3-3, as both sides had held serve each of the first six games. With Eubanks and Kreuger serving with a 30-0 lead, the pair of All American seniors flipped the game, coming back to break to 30 and take a 4-3 lead in the set.
Stodder and Touliatos went on to secure the upset victory, winning the set 6-4.
“We just kept telling ourselves that we weren’t out of any of the games,” Touliatos said. “Doubles can flip like that and it did. We just kept making returns, and tried to play as solid as possible and it worked out in the end.”
The pair will move on to face Matsui Toshihide and Nielsen Frederik on Thursday.
Former Vol J.P. Smith competed in doubles action Wednesday. Playing with Reid Matt, the pair lost in three sets (6-3, 3-6, 10-5) to Gonzales Ruben and Lammons Nathaniel. Smith also fell in singles play on Tuesday.
Play at the Knoxville Challenger resumes on Thursday morning.