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Anticipation

June 27, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

It’s no secret that Guillermo Gomez and Kevin King have had aspirations of playing on the ATP someday.

Someday will be here beginning on July 16.

Gomez and King each will be making their professional debut at the Atlanta Tennis Championships taking place at The Racquet Club of the South in Norcross. Included in the field are the likes of former World No. 1 and Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion Lleyton Hewitt, James Blake, last year’s ATC Champion Mardy Fish and several local favorites including, among others John Isner (a UGA grad).

Running from July 16 through the 24, the ATP-sponsored event features a 28-player singles main draw and a 16-team doubles draw.

Gomez earned a Wild Card berth and will play in a 32-player qualifying draw, from which four players will emerge to complete the singles qualifying field. King earned a wild card berth and will be competing in doubles.

“I think it’s a great opportunity. It’s getting experience,” said Georgia Tech Men’s Tennis Head Coach Kenny Thorne. “Once you get on the pro tour, not necessarily that the level is going to be incredibly higher, but the consistency of the level will be higher. it’s great for the school, it’s great for the city and it’s great for Kevin. He deserves a good chance. But you’re playing against guys who are doing this for a living now. So it’s serious business.”

Thorne has no doubt Gomez also will be ready to match the pro players’ intensity.

“It’s legal for people to take your lunch money out here,” Thorne said with a laugh. “So it’s a business. [Guillermo] takes everything, he took school as a business, he took our team as a business and he’s going to take his pro career as a business. So he’s got a great shot. It’s just a matter of getting some experience out there and feeling comfortable with where he’s at.”

Gomez broke Thorne’s school career record with 119 singles wins. While the record may not help him on the court as a pro, the confidence of knowing how to win will. He’s going into the ATC with his eyes open, but not doe-eye, wide.

“I hope [the Tournament organizers] gave [the wild card entry] to me because they have confidence that I can do well,” he said. “I know that I can do well. I know odd things can happen, too, but that’s tennis. So I’m going to be there to play my best no matter who I play against.

“I’ve been lucky enough to practice with some very good players over the years, so I know what the level is,” he added. “Hopefully it’s going to be a good experience to be there. But I know what the level is and I know what I can do. So I’m just going to take it as a good experience and I want to learn from it.”

Gomez, a three-time Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-American, who ranked as high as No. 3 in the collegiate ranks, insisted his preparation will be business as usual.

“I don’t want to do anything different,” he said. “This is not a different situation. It’s a different tournament, but I’m going to practice the same way and I’m going to try my best because that’s what I do day by day.”

King will have to make a bigger adjustment, as he won’t be playing with his teammate of nearly two years Juan Spir — a duo that reached the NCAA Doubles Championships semifinals after knocking off the Nation’s No. 1 and No. 7 teams. Instead, he will be learning the tendencies of a new partner, Drake Bernstein of Georgia.

The two know each other, which makes sleeping with the enemy a little easier.

“He was tough player, a good competitor. So it will be interesting,” said King. “We’ve played a few times, even back in the juniors. He’s from Georgia. So we’ve been in a lot of the same tournaments and have played each other.”

While they’ve never shared a doubles court, Thorne is not concerned the two will have trouble jelling.

“[Bernstein’s] a great competitor,” he said. “He’ll compete strong no matter what. Kevin and Drake know each other. Their families know each other. So I think there’s a comfort factor there. They’re not throwing two guys who don’t know anything about each other together. I think they’ll be pretty comfortable.”

Thorne isn’t surprised to see a Yellow Jacket and a Bulldog team up, as it may be a precursor for King’s life on the ATP. He also has no trouble rooting for the team.

“We pull for the state of Georgia in that,” Thorne said with a laugh. “After you get on the pro tour you find out that there’s a lot more competition out there than just within the state of Georgia. But there will still be that interesting factor of Georgia vs. Georgia.”

Thorne hopes the ATP’s return to Atlanta, similarly, will be a precursor. The fervent crowd he’s expecting would help that.

“We need fans to get out there and support this,” he said. “Get the Georgia Tech fans and get the Georgia fans out there and just show their support for college students that have an opportunity to go out and do some incredible things, I’m appreciative to Bob Bryan for putting this event on and to include Georgia and Georgia Tech, that’s a special thing that he’s doing. So we need the fans to come out and support this. It’s going to be a neat thing.”

For more information on the ATC, including how to buy tickets visit www.atlantatennischampionships.com.

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