With a group of six freshmen and sophomores looking to gain a lot of experience in a short period of time, Georgia Tech’s men’s tennis team opens its fall schedule in the Southern Intercollegiate Championship in Athens, Ga.
The four-day event begins Friday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex with first-round competition in singles and doubles, and concludes Monday with championship matches in both draws. The 2012 tournament features participants from 23 schools: Armstrong Atlantic, The Citadel, Clemson, East Tennessee State, Florida, Florida Gulf Coast, Furman, Georgia, Georgia College, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, Kentucky, Liberty, Lipscomb, Mercer, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, North Florida, Presbyterian, UT Chattanooga, Tennessee Tech, and Vanderbilt.
Juan Spir, a senior from Medellin, Colombia, and Juan Melian, a senior from Madrid, Spain, are the only upperclassmen at the disposal of head coach Kenny Thorne, who begins his 15th season trying to take the Yellow jackets back to the NCAA team championships after a year’s absence.
Spir earned All-America honors in doubles for the second time last spring as part of the No. 4 tandem in the nation with the graduated Kevin King, but will have to find another partner for his final year at Tech. The big 6-4 righthander went 22-5 with King last year and has 75 doubles win for his Tech career, fifth on the all-time list.
He enters the fall as Tech’s top singles player as well, with a 59-40 career mark and a 17-12 record last year, when he rose as high as 48th in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.
Melian, who was the Southern Conference Player of the Year in 2011 at Georgia Southern before transferring to Tech, played No. 3 and 4 in the singles lineup last spring for Tech, compiling an 18-12 overall singles record, 12-9 in dual matches.
“[The SIC] becomes a good indicator,” said Thorne. “This is where we begin to find out what our team is going to be like. Traditionally, a lot of the best players in the nation play here. It’s a very good tournament.”
Thorne will begin to identify players to fill out the spring lineup from a group of sophomore including Eduardo Segura (Madrid, Spain) and Vikram Hundal (Alpharetta, Ga.), who combined for a 13-17 singles mark in spring matches last year, and Colin Edwards (Valrico, Fla.). He also will be looking to identify the best doubles combinations.
Thorne brought in three freshman from the greater Atlanta area who will have plenty of opportunities to develop during the fall, including Garrett Gordon and Nathan Rakitt from Marietta, Ga., and Anish Sharma of Alpharetta, Ga., each of whom were ranked among the top six juniors in the state. Gordon ranked as high as 32nd nationally, Rakitt as high as No. 82.