Feb. 12, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Cole Fiegel is all about the process, and right now it’s humming. The sophomore lefty has won six straight matches for Georgia Tech, and nine of his past 10 dating to his fall finale.
The goal for Cole is to stay on a roll, and not just for himself.
There is something different about the spring season in college tennis, when teams generally play dual matches and try to out-point opposing teams, versus the fall, when players typically fine tune their games in competitions that rarely keep track of team scores.
“There is a mindset in the spring, competing for a team rather than competing individually in the fall,” Fiegel said in advance of the Yellow Jackets’ Sunday match at Auburn. “A lot of the guys are more fiery, and more passionate in the spring.
“We all try to give our best, but that team format just gives you that little extra that you don’t have when you’re competing for yourself.”
Fiegel’s fine spring, where he has put together an 8-1 record with a pair of wins against players from the University of Georgia, is likely attributable to both to the Jackets’ esprit de corps and some of that autumn tweaking.
He’s become a bit more aggressive in deploying his fall work to his spring game.
“In the fall, it’s more about improvement than results,” he explained. “You’re focusing on trying to prepare for the spring. Some guys will work on some new things. Last year, I didn’t come to the net much.
“This fall, I started putting that into my game a little bit. The spring is all about finding that perfect balance of coming to the net the right amount of times.”
From the time he began playing tennis at age 6, Fiegel has been a serve-and-volley kind of guy largely for sake of his surroundings. He grew up in Alachua, Fla., near Gainesville, and played to his surfaces.
“I grew up playing on a lot of clay courts. I played very far behind the baseline,” he said. “You have to adjust. A lot of tournaments are in south Florida, and there is a lot of clay down there. The ball bounces lower [on hard courts].”
Drawn to Tech by the engineering programs, the tennis facilities and schedule, and head coach Kenny Thorne, Fiegel has merged all things.
Majoring in industrial engineering, a field somewhat built around some of the same principles involved with improving as a tennis player – or anything – he transfers methods all the time.
“It’s all about the process, industrial engineering, and my mindset is always about the process,” he said. “I love the process, how things work, and I’m all about efficiency: time efficiency, court efficiency, movement efficiency when you’re on the court.”
The process does not end between semesters.
Fiegel spent time last fall working on his serve and return, and he has renewed that emphasis as the Jackets play out their non-conference schedule. Sunday’s match at Auburn will be the only pre-ACC contest among 13 that is not at home. Conference play begins March 6 at Clemson.
“Serve and return is probably the biggest part of tennis along with movement. Actually, the one loss this spring [7-6, 1-6, 4-6] to Oklahoma [and Florin Bragusi], I didn’t get one service break.
“I won a set because I held my serve and I was able to win a tiebreaker, but that’s when I realized if you play a match and you don’t break once, you have to work on your return.”
The work being done by Cole Fiegel, who this spring is 1-0 at No. 4 singles, 2-0 at No. 5, 3-0 at No. 6, 13-6 overall, and 11-5 overall in doubles with a mark of 5-1 when paired with Nathan Rakitt, is not only for him. It’s for his teammates as well.
“The bigger picture is goals as a team,” he said. “I want us to be top 16 [in the nation]. I want us to host the NCAAs. That’s a goal that Kenny has put up there, a goal that I believe we can achieve.
“I think our team chemistry is great and we all love each other. Each and every single one of the guys gives the team something not only from a playing perspective, but also from an emotional standpoint.”