July 7, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Michael Kay is helping others study nuances of the game this week while working at the Georgia Tech tennis camp, but he won’t have to wait long to show what he’s learned himself.
The rising sophomore put together a fairly even freshman season for the Yellow Jackets, yet has more in mind than a 23-21 record. His summer work has been fruitful, and could land him in the Atlanta BB&T Open, a professional tournament to be held July 27-August 2 at Atlantic Station.
That’ll be nearly next door to Tech, and he’s stayed close to his Alpharetta home this summer. By winning one of the four local BB&T wildcard tournaments, he earned a berth in the Final Four July 21-22.
The winner there will land in the BB&T’s qualifying tournament July 25-26 – which will send a number of players to be determined into the main draw.
He also reached the finals of the Atlanta City Open a few weeks ago. More importantly to the younger of Tech’s two Kay brothers, he went to the final of the U.S. Open National Playoffs – Southern Qualifying Tournament.
Kay fell 6-1, 6-4 to pro Jessie Witten, but that score doesn’t tell the story.
Witten, a 32-year-old pro, who reached the round of 32 at the U.S. Open in 2009 before losing in four sets to Novak Djokovic. Witten and Kay shared eight deuces in the first game of their match, and Kay stretched out the pro in the second set.
It all adds up to confidence that Kay can hardly wait to play with again.
“I was definitely nervous. I’d never played anybody with a reputation like that,” he recalled. “We played about a 20-minute game [with eight deuces] on his serve. At the beginning of second set I was playing well, and I got broken at 2-all. I was pretty comfortable but never able to break him back.
“Coach [Kenny] Thorne afterward was talking about what a good experience it was playing somebody like that . . . I told him, ‘I wish I could find more opportunities to play someone like that.’ I think I learned a lot.”
Kay rolled through early stages of the 64-man Atlanta City Open, where he beat Tech teammate Daniel Yun, before falling 6-2, 6-2 in the final to University of Kentucky freshman Trey Yates of Dunwoody.
After reaching the final at the ACO in back-to-back years, Kay is looking for more both for Tech and for himself.
He lost eight of his last nine spring matches for the Jackets, and while he went 15-11 in doubles while pairing with fellow freshman/Atlanta Christopher Eubanks – who has a wild card entry into the BB&T – the college season cannot arrive soon enough.
The Jackets lose just one player, Eduardo Sequra, to graduation, and one year after Thorne recruited four Atlanta-area freshmen, Tech adds two international players in 6-foot-7 Polish standout Philip Gresk and Andrew Li of Hong Kong.
Tech senior Nathan Rakitt figures to improve after a shoulder injury-riddled spring, Kay plans to be better, and his brother, Casey, will hopefully continue his recovery from the hip surgery that limited him last season to two singles matches.
“I haven’t seen too many of my teammates. I’ve been up in Alpharetta,” Michael said. “I’m going to be working at the camp a little bit, working with my brother and Nathan and I’ll hopefully start hitting with the guys in July and August.”
Before the Jackets re-join each other, Kay has more plans.
“If I can go to the BB&T Final Four and perform there and get into qualifying, I could definitely get more of the opportunities I’m looking for,” he said. “After that, I’ll likely be training with my brother , my dad and others hoping to go to the ITA in Indiana.
“It will be before school starts, but if you win you get a wildcard into the All-Americans after school starts.”