A Royal Flush

Nov. 5, 2010

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

– When Georgia Tech’s doubles team of junior Kevin King and sophomore Juan Spir won last week’s USTA/ITA Southeast Regional in Gainesville, Fla., they swore they would put the victory behind them and focus on the future.

It turns out a trip down memory lane was exactly what they needed.

On Friday afternoon in the quarterfinal round of the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships at the USTA-Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. King and Spir knocked off Duke’s team of Reid Carleton and Henrique Cunha, the nation’s No. 1 team, 8-5.

“They played a good match, a solid match,” said men’s tennis coach Kenny Thorne. “It’s important to get off to a quick start and they did that. They got up a break early and held on.”

It was the second day in a row that Tech’s team, ranked 43rd, not only knocked off a top-10 team but got a measure of revenge against a team that had beaten them in a previous meeting.

On Thursday, King and Spir eliminated Kentucky’s team of Brad Cox and Eric Quigley, ranked No. 8, winning 9-8 (they took the tiebreaker, 8-6). Cox and Quigley had beaten King and Spir, 8-4, in the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship, back on May 16.

While it wouldn’t be wrong to call Friday’s match an upset, Tech’s duo, who raised its fall record to 15-3, might beg to differ. They’d nearly toppled Carleton and Cunha last year, losing 9-8, dropping the tiebreaker, 7-4.

Familiarity was a key to the victory this time.

“It helped a lot playing them last year,” said King. “They’re a good team. Just knowing how they play going in, their strengths and weaknesses, helped us. It gave us confidence we knew that if we played well we’d have an opportunity to beat them.”

“We were very close to beating them last year,” added Spir. “We knew that they were going to be a tough match but we knew that we could win. We had the confidence that we could get on the court and turn it up. It was a tough match. We knew we had to change some stuff and we did it.”

Tech got a service break in the second game of the match then held serve the rest of the way.

“In the second game, they were serving, we had a couple of loose points and then Juan came up with a couple of good shots and got us the early break,” said King. “After that we knew as long as we stayed solid on our service that we’d be in good shape.”

Spir believes that the duo’s familiarity with each other played a bigger in their success than the familiarity with the opposition.

“I think that we have built on all the matches we’ve played,” he said. “We’ve played like 15, 16 matches coming into this tournament and that definitely gives you a better feel of what to do on the court and you understand your partner better.”

While it’s tough to get any better than beating the top-ranked team — not to mention an ACC rival — King and Spir know they still have work to do. That work begins on Saturday when they meet Texas A&M’s team of Jeff Dadamo and Austin Krajicek in the semifinals.

It will be the first time this weekend that they’ll be meeting a team they’ve never faced. But the lack of familiarity with Dadamo and Krajicek won’t change their game plan.

“[Friday’s] match definitely gives us confidence going into tomorrow,” said King. “We just wanted to come here and keep playing the way we were playing at regionals and continue to win. We just have to keep focusing, taking it point by point. Hopefully it will turn out well.”

“We have to go out tomorrow and make a statement that we’re going to be the ones that control the match,” said Spir. “We definitely came here to win the tournament. These two wins were very important for us because we lost to both teams last season. So it felt pretty good beating them.”

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