Four different current or former Tennessee tennis players competed on Thursday at the Knoxville Challenger at the Goodfriend Tennis Center.
The day kicked off with former Vol Tennys Sandgren taking on Blaz Rola in a singles match. Sandgren came into the tournament as the top seed and ranked as the No. 61 player in the world.
The match did not go as he had hoped, as he dropped the first set 6-4. Sandgren was able to bounce back early in the second set and jump out to an early lead, but Rola was able to come back and tie the second set up at 4-4.
Once Rola gained the momentum in the match, the former Vol was not able to make another run, as Rola was able to defeat Sandgren 6-4, 6-4. The loss eliminated Sandgren from the singles portion of the Knoxville Challenger.
However, Sandgren was not done for the day, as he teamed up with another former Vol in Hunter Reese, as they took on the team of Robert Galloway and Nathan Pasha in a doubles match.
In the first set, the team of former Vols were able to jump out early and not look back. After picking up an easy 6-2 victory in the first set, they were able to win a match that went back forth in the second set. With the 6-2, 6-4 victory, the team of Sandgren and Reese advanced to the semi-finals of the tournament.
The other two Volunteers to appear in the tournament on Thursday were current Tennessee players Timo Stodder and Preston Touliatos. They took the court to face the team of Toshihide Matsui and Frederik Nielsen.
The match did not start out great for the Vol teammates, as they fell behind early 3-0 in the first set. However, after falling behind 5-0, Stodder and Touliatos were able to put together a run, winning each of the next two games. The Vols were not able to finish off the comeback in the set, as they dropped the opener 6-2.
In the second set, the Vols were able to jump out to an early 1-0 lead. With Matsui and Nielsen serving, the Vols were had three break points, but a string of five straight points tied the second set at 1-1. After the second set was tied again at 2-2, the Vols were able to take back the momentum, as they ran out to a 5-2 lead.
The current Vols were able to hold off Matsui and Nielsen to win the second set, 6-3, and tie the match at one-set each.
The Vols were not able to win the decisive tiebreak, however, falling 10-5. Even with the loss, Stodder and Touliatos have been able to make the most out of getting to play against professional players. They were able to pull of the upset on Wednesday, while almost being able to keep their run alive on Thursday.
“We had fun, I wish we could have kept the run alive,” Touliatos said. “We have played good doubles the past couple of weeks, and we have been able to capitalize.”
While they were able to gain some valuable experience, they are also going to try to use these matches in the Knoxville Challenger in order to improve for the rest of the season.
“As coach was saying, we have played for two weeks, in two professional tournaments,” Stodder said. “We got a lot of points and it is a great setup for the future.”
The Knoxville challenger will resume on Friday at the Goodfriend Tennis Center.