#TGW: The Thinker

Feb. 26, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Next Match: Today, at Georgia, The Dan Magill Tennis Complex, 2:30 p.m.

There’s a difference between zoning-out and zoning-in.

In observing freshman tennis player Cole Fiegel, it may look like the former, but is very much the latter.

It’s a key part of his pre-match mental preparation.

“I usually sit in the locker room, the music’s playing, and I just sit and think,” said Fiegel, who will put his five-match singles win streak on the line today when No. 46 Georgia Tech (6-2, 0-1 in ACC, 1-0 vs. Nationally ranked teams) takes on No. 35 Georgia (3-5, 0-0 in SEC, 0-5 vs. nationally ranked teams) at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens (the match begins at 2:30 p.m.). “Whereas other people jump around, stretch, foam roll, I’m more calm. I just like to sit and think and really get my mind ready.”

The Alchua, Fla., native, and Gainesville High School star, doesn’t limit his visualization to game day.

“[I do it] Constantly, days before, weeks before,” said the 6-2, 186-pound lefty. “I know in juniors if I had a big tournament, months before I would think about it, think about it, think about it. Visualize myself playing different players.

“In this scenario I have a pretty good idea of who I’m going to play,” he continued. “Whenever I have 10, 15 minutes where I’m just sitting down or doing homework, I think about it. I think about the match, I visualize points, situations, everything. I just can’t stop thinking about it.”

Fiegel has thought plenty about playing against Georgia at the Magill Complex, a setting in which he’s played a couple of times already in his young career.

In September, in the Southern Intercollegiate Championships, his first collegiate matches, he went 2-1 in singles and went 1-1 in doubles, with partner Colin Edwards. He returned in early November, going 2-2 at the Bulldog Scramble, including a loss to Georgia’s Ben Wagland and 0-2 in doubles with partner Nathan Rakitt, losing to Wagland and Hernus Pieters.

His most recent exposure to Georgia came in January at the MLK Invitational at the Byers Center, where he lost in singles to Nick Wood in three sets and he and Anish Sharma fell to Wood and Austin Smith.

Fiegel has a positive experience upon which to reflect against UGA, as at the USTA Southeast Regionals in October, he and Rakitt knocked off Pieters and Wagland.

The matches against UGA players gave him a taste of what is in store Thursday afternoon.

“It’s intense. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking but it’s very intense,” he said. “Everybody zones in. It kind of has a special feeling. Any time you play UGA it’s a little bit different from other matches. We all have routines, mentally that we go through before we play and everyone really keys in to that match.”

This match up may be even more intense than his previous encounters with Georgia, as this is mano-a-mano, one-on-one, Georgia Tech-Georgia.

“It’s always more important when you’re playing for a team,” Fiegel said. “I think that’s something unique that college tennis brings. It takes an individual sport and it allows you to compete for a team.

“Whereas in football, basketball, baseball, you’re competing for a team all the time in tennis as a junior you’re not,” he added. “So when you get to make that transition into college, when you’re playing for a team, especially if you’re playing against a top team, when you’re winning you’re winning for your team and personally to me that means a lot more than winning for myself.”

Fiegel’s recent wins have meant a lot to the Yellow Jackets. He’s excelled playing No. 5 singles, including notching the team’s only point against Florida State in the Jackets’ last match. He also may have found a new long-term doubles partner in fellow freshman Will Flowers.

Since teaming up with Flowers for the Feb. 14 match against No. 24 Auburn, the duo is 0-1, with two unfinished matches. But those numbers don’t reflect how well the team has played. Their loss was 5-6 to Old Dominion, losing the decisive tiebreaker, 7-2, and in their unfinished matches, they were even, 5-5, with the Tigers and were serving for the match, up 7-6, against the Seminoles.

“We definitely have been improving,” said Fiegel. “The first two matches we were a little bit rusty and then it came together a lot better against Florida State.”

Fiegel believes Georgia Tech, which doesn’t have a senior and has only one junior, is coming together and is taking advantage of the opportunity to grow as a team.

“We enjoy the fact that we can get better every day and it’s not just going to be a thing where we’re going to get better today and then people are going to be gone tomorrow,” he said. “Everyone that we have is coming back. So I think it’s really unique that we have that.

“At the same time, the fact that we are a `young team’ is not an excuse for us,” he added. “We still expect to compete against the top teams as if we were all seniors. We live for it.”

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