Interview with Kenny Thorne

Jan. 14, 2010

Following is a question-and-answer session with Georgia Tech men’s tennis coach Kenny Thorne as his team prepares to open the spring season.

On Guillermo Gomez’ successful fall season despite suffering from a sports hernia:

“Guillermo’s goal simply is to win. He’s a black and white guy; either you win or you lose. When it comes to injuries, you have to weight the consequences. Once we determined it was a sports hernia and that it wasn’t going to get that much worse, but it wasn’t going to get better until we take care of it, we set a date for after the season to get it taken care of. Once we did that, his mind went to accomplishing what he needed to accomplish. He was 100 percent mentally. Physically, there were times when it flared up, and he had to pull out of a couple [matches], but it was probably the best fall season of any male player at Georgia Tech.”

On his treatment:

“He had sports hernia surgery. He ended up having two sports hernias, not just one. He got them both taken care of, and he did that over (holiday) break. He took it slow, but he’s working back. He’s back playing sets now. He played sets today, and he will play sets again tomorrow. He looks good.”

On what parts of his game he has worked on:

“I felt like his serve was one of the major improvements in his game. A lot of players, particularly Spanish players, come in with very good ground strokes and work on their ground strokes. He has improved his serve to where it’s become more of a strength, maybe not quite a weapon yet, but a strength. And he’s improved his return of serve. He’s had times in the past where players have gotten him on the defensive with big serves, but he’s been able to neutralize them on the returns a lot better. Those are the two areas in which he’s improved the most.”

On the qualities in him that make him so highly ranked:

“We’ve had a lot of high-quality people come through here. Guillermo has done an incredible job of wanting to work on areas [of his game] and not being afraid to change things that make a difference. He went from not ranked as a freshman to getting up to the 50’s, and he was not happy. He wanted to change some things in order to get to that next level. He improved to 11th, and was not happy with where he finished last spring. He’s constantly inquiring about what else he can do with his game. His mindset is that you win or don’t win, either you’re No. 1 or you’re not. That keeps him motivated to improve things an correct things that aren’t quite there.”

On the team’s preparation after the end of the fall season:

“It’s always tough, because they head home to spend time with their families, which they need to do. That’s one of the best things that they can do. They’re also finishing up exams. It’s tough to get much tennis in there during that time. We encourage all of them to try to play a tournament close to Christmas in order to get back in to that match situation. Some players can, some can’t. We had a few guys stick around who were in town. We were able to practice with them during the time off. At the beginning it’s difficult when you come back, but every team is in the same situation. I think our guys decided before we left that they wanted to come back as ready as we possibly could considering all of the time off during Christmas. I’m pleased. The guys came back, and obviously they’re excited. But I think, playing-wise, we’re in pretty good shape. We’re going to play better at the end of January than we will in our first few matches, but I think we’re in pretty good shape going in to Friday.”

On deciding on the team’s lineup:

“We’ll play matches starting tomorrow. We’ll play two days in a row. And they play for [a spot in the lineup]. If they’re playing well, and they win, then they’ll get a spot. We put it out there for them to take control. If they want it bad enough, and if they want to be in the lineup, then they’ll come out tomorrow and they’ll win. The next thing that follows is the most important. They earn certain credit throughout the fall. But at the same time, once we get to playing on Friday and they’re not playing well at that moment, then it will be difficult to get them in the lineup. We actually have a formula. We’re Georgia Tech, we’re always coming up with formulas. We put credit on the fall, and you earn a certain amount of points based on how you did in the fall. The points are going to double up here as we start the season. More emphasis is put in the point system right now as opposed to back in the fall. And if you’re pretty high up in the lineup in the fall, then don’t think it’s tough to not fall out of the lineup now.”

On the team’s preparation in the next few days:

“We actually have an eight-man tournament. They’ll play out from spots 1 through 8. And if they don’t finish before the match then we might have to go into next week to finish the entire tournament. We haven’t done that with doubles. Because of the way we’ve cut guys out, we just haven’t had an opportunity to do it with doubles yet.”

On Kevin King’s injury status:

“Kevin has been out with an injury. We went to the doctor today, and it looks like he’s progressing pretty well. It’s going to be a little while before he’s going to be able to play a match. But he is back hitting, which is a positive thing. We’ll go day-to-day on his situation.”

On lineup changes in between matches this weekend:

“Because the point system doesn’t always play in when you’re playing matches, we look at the results from each match, and your outside competition is extremely important. We can only move one spot in the lineup up or down based on rules from the ITA. But right now we’ve got 8 guys who can play. It’s a nice thing to have. If somebody is having a tough time, we know that we can find a good replacement.”

On the play of Dusan Miljevic:

“He’s one of those guys who decided over Christmas to stick around and improve his game. He did it last Christmas, and he did it again this Christmas. This past summer he got with a coach individually and worked the entire summer. And it’s paying off. He’s decided that he wants to improve, and that’s what it’s going to take. And you can see it. You see it in the confidence level, you see it in the stroke production. I thought that he had one of the best falls outside of Guillermo that we had. He deserves to be ranked, and I think the ranking can go a lot higher. But it’s the consistency factor that I’ve always harped on. If he can bring his consistency from the fall into the spring, then he’s going to have a great year. And that’s something that once you get out of the spring and you start on a roll, then you start to get that reputation that you’re a tough out. I’m proud of where he got in the fall, but it’s a whole new ballgame now. It’s a team match, and he’s got bring that same intensity and that same consistency every match.”

On Tech’s competition this weekend:

“I know that Derek Tarr is the coach at UAB, and he does a great job with the players that are there. Last year, I think that they were in and out of the rankings. Men’s tennis is so close. One player here and there, and you’re 70, 40, 20, or 15. You’re right there with all the teams. I absolutely respect their team, I respect the job that he’s done. I feel good about where we’re at, so I’m very confident there. The same thing applies to USC-Upstate. They were in the rankings all last year, and I think they’re back in the 60’s now. Again, there’s not a lot of difference in the teams there. But at the same time their team is going to come here, and it’s a good opportunity for them. We’re going to have a target on us, and we welcome that. That’s going to be great for the guys. We’re going to go out there and play two tough teams, and then we’ll have to play another tough team after that in Georgia Southern in the afternoon.

On the difficulty of playing multiple matches in one day:

“We’ll find out. That’s when you really find out what they did over Christmas. At the Division I college level you should be able to play two matches in one day. But when you have one team play in that first match, it’s a long first match, and you’re not quite in the shape that you’d like to be, it gets tougher. So that’s what we’re going to face in the afternoon. It’s a great challenge. Georgia Southern is going to come in here ready. And it’s going to put our guys in a little tougher situation. I think that’s good for them. It’s what we need. They’re tough. We don’t have a lot of really easy matches.”

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