#STINGDAILY: First Time The Charm

Oct. 22, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

The slogan for the New York Lottery is, “Hey, you never know.®”

It’s a fitting slogan for Georgia Tech’s doubles team of Juan Spir and Vikram Hundal, as on Monday, the duo won the doubles draw of the 2012 USTA/ITA Southeast Regional Championships, held in Tallahassee, Fla., on the campus of Florida State University, despite never having played together as a team.

Their reward is a trip to Flushing, N.Y., and a spot in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships being held Nov. 8 through the 11th at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

“We got really comfortable playing with each other and things went well for us,” said Spir, whose usual partner this season, Eduardo Segura was unable to play in the tournament. “Me and Vic got paired up and we went from there. It was not really planned out but things work like that sometimes.”

“It was a last-minute thing,” said Hundal, who has been teamed this year with freshman Garrett Gordon. “We have personalities that are a little different — he’s a little more serious — but we had the perfect mixture. It worked well in the tournament.”

Spir and Hundal, the tournament’s top seed, clinched the title Monday morning, knocking off North Florida’s team of Moritz Buerchner and Norbert Nemcsek, the tourney’s third seed, 8-3.

Tech’s pair dropped a total of 10 games in five matches in the event.

Spir credited the system of head coach Kenny Thorne and assistant coach Derek Schwandt for the smooth transition.

“Kenny and Derek do a good job of teaching the basics of doubles, the fundamentals,” he said. “I think that any player on the team can play with anyone. We all play really great doubles so it makes it easier to transition to a new partner because we all have the same principles.”

It was difficult to tell that Spir, a senior from Medellin, Colombia, and Hundal, a sophomore from Alpharetta, had never been on the same side of the net at the same time. They came out smoking, and, on Thursday, wiped out both Florida A&M’s team of Chidi Gabriel and Admire Mushonga, then, later that day, Georgia’s pair of Will Oliver and Austin Smith at love.

That first-day dominance gave Hundal a lot of confidence going forward.

“After the first day, that’s when it really hit me that we have a good shot of not only doing well in this tournament but being a top team in the nation,” he said. “That was very exciting for me.”

The excitement was just beginning, as on Saturday, Tech’s team took home a quarterfinal victory over the seventh-seeded team of Benjamin Lock and Dominic Cotrone from the host school. They continued their roll Sunday, beating fourth-seeds Mike Alford and Florent Diep of Florida. That set up the final with Buerchner and Nemcsek.

While Spir had never met the team that stood in his way of a second straight title in the event — he’d won it last year with Kevin King — he knew about them.

“We knew they made the semifinals at All-Americans so we knew it was going to be a tough match,” he said. “We got some good scouting reports. You just try to make a good game plan before going into the match.”

While the information on the opposing teams was limited, Spir’s and Hundal’s supply of energy was not.

“We kept playing with energy on points throughout the tournament,” said Spir. “We had pretty good opening matches the first day and we got a little more confident. We returned well and we responded well in pressure situations.”

In the end, the two complemented each other perfectly.

“I have to give a lot of credit to Vikram,” Spir said. “He played an amazing tournament. With his serve, he did a great job making a lot of first serves and we both returned really well. So that really made the difference.”

Hundal credited Spir’s experience for helping him get through.

“Juan helped me with, high energy throughout the whole tournament,” said Hundal. “He had a lot of experience coming into the tournament and he was a lot more confident on big points. I’ll admit, I was a lot more nervous when it came down to the wire but he didn’t let up at all. I think his experience was the difference.”

The Finals win was historic for Spir as it gave him his 82nd career doubles wins, tying Sergio Aguirre (1997-2001) for the school record.

“Obviously, I’m very proud to be up there,” he said. “It’s something that when you start you’re not really thinking about, but as matches go on, it gives that extra motivation to keep going. You want to be part of Georgia Tech history. So it’s really nice to be up there.”

It will also be nice to go back to New York for the USTA/ITA National Indoors. It’s the fourth year in a row Georgia Tech will be represented there.

“New York is a great city and that tournament, the best of each region goes there,” said Spir. “The doubles draw is only 16 teams so it’s a high-level tournament. Hopefully we can do really well.”

The Championships will continue Hundal’s joy ride, as he not only will be playing in the event for the first time, he will be making his first visit to New York. He’s looking forward to the experience, being by his new partner’s side all the way.

“It will be a lot tougher competition but like Juan was saying, it’s all about how you are with your game,” he said. “A lot of first serves, making the returns, and just sticking to your game, not trying to do too much. If we play our game and stay disciplined we’ll be fine.”

Hey, you never know.

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