Tennessee’s men’s tennis team is off to a hot start in the spring season as the No. 22 ranked team. The Vols have gone 5-0 in their first two weeks.
“Guys look good, guys look good,” associate coach James McKie said. “We’re competing the right way.”
It’s been a good start to the spring season for Tennessee, who had question marks entering this season following last year’s 22-8 campaign. Tennessee lost a pair of All-Americans in Preston Touliatos and Timo Stodder.
The duo collected five All Americans and three All-SEC awards in their careers at Knoxville, while also combining for a 92-21 record last season.
“Timo and Preston were very valuable to us,” McKie said. “But I think the addition of new guys definitely helped. Not only new guys, but new guys with experience so transfers helped, but I think the guys believe it. These teams at the top are beatable and we can do that.”
Tennessee already has one marquee win over top competition this season when the Vols went on the road and beat, then No. 22, Oklahoma. The win over the Sooners was the only match Tennessee hadn’t swept this year, as the Vols survived a back-and-forth affair, 4-3.
“First of all, kudos to Oklahoma," McKie said following the Oklahoma win. "They fought their tails off. We were in control and they kept coming back. It comes down to Luca (Wiedenmann) at the end and when he's in that situation we have full confidence that he is going to do it and help get us the win and he did."
Wiedenmann has been one of the many Vols to step up early in this season. The Munich, Germany native went 24-11 as a junior, but seems to have revved it up early this season as he’s off to a 5-0 start.
With as much talent as Tennessee lost from last season’s team, they did return an All-SEC talent in Adam Walton. Walton earned First Team All-SEC honors and SEC All-Tournament Team during his sophomore season.
Walton is ranked No. 23 nationally and hasn’t lost yet this season. Walton is 4-0 in singles play this season including a pair of two set sweeps. Walton, while paired with either Martin Prata or Mark Wallner, is 5-0 in doubles play without surrendering more than three games in a single match.
The Vols’ doubles teams have been dominant at this point in the season, picking up the doubles point in every game so far. Additionally, Tennessee has a 14-4 record with three unfinished matches.
Despite this, Tennessee isn’t settled in its doubles pairings and are exploring more options going forward.
“I think we’re probably going to have three different teams this weekend,” McKie said. “Doubles has looked good, but it’s important that we’re strong at every spot, not just two of them.”
This weekend, Tennessee will face its best competition outside of the Oklahoma matchup as the Vols host a ITA Kick-Off weekend. Tennessee will face Arizona State in its opening matchup before facing either Oklahoma State or Columbia in the second day of the event.
For Tennessee, the focus is on the little things as they try to continue their perfect season at home.
“Doing things correctly,” McKie said of the team’s focus headed into the weekend. “It’s not necessarily winning or losing, but no matter who we play against, make sure we prepare the right way, we do the right things off the court, good things will happen.”
“It’s a very tough region obviously,” McKie said. “We feel confident. All three teams are going to be very good, but that’s exactly what we need at this point in the season ... It’s time to defend our home court and go do it.”
Tennessee and Arizona State are set to start at 2 p.m. ET from the Goodfriend Tennis Center.