Oct. 1, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Playing doubles, period, was relatively new for Eduardo Segura, and he, too, was looking for a new partner.
Georgia Tech men’s tennis head coach Kenny Thorne played matchmaker, putting Spir, a senior, and Segura, a sophomore, together. The resulting partnership, although right now a work in progress, appears destined to be a fun one to watch.
It turns out that the two actually have some common ground.
“They both serve well and both move well at the net and can do some good things there,” said Thorne, who watched the pair reach the semifinals of the Southern Intercollegiate Championships in their first tournament as a team. “They had a tough loss in the semifinals after having like five match points but they’re right there. I think it was a good start.”
The next step comes Thursday in Tulsa, Okla., at the ITA All-American Championships.
With the positives from the Southern Intercollegiate and three good weeks of practice behind them, Tech’s No. 1 team expects this weekend to be more about feeling good about other than feeling each other out.
Spir’s experience and leadership will be important in the early weeks of the partnership.
“I am more experienced in doubles, I’ve been here for three years,” said the Medellin, Colombia native, who is a two-time ACC performer and a 2011 ITA All-American, and brought a 75-34 career doubles record into 2012-13. “With my style of game, I’m a big server, I come to the net a lot, so it makes it a little easier to transition to doubles.
“Eddie, he plays a lot from the baseline, he looks for his forehand, he likes to play long points,” he continued. “We’ve been working on him getting to the net, being a little more comfortable at the net. We’ve been working more on the position that you have at the net when you’re playing doubles. He’s learning fast, he has great hands and we’re working from different patterns and from different places. Overall we’re doing a great job.”
Segura, a native of Madrid, Spain, admitted that growing up in Spain was more conducive to him playing singles rather than doubles, but he is getting used to the faster game.
“In doubles you don’t have long points, you have to be able to serve a lot of first service and go to the net more often, don’t stay back on the baseline, play more aggressively,” he said. “Fast points and be able to make decisions faster because you don’t have as much time to think.”
Segura was 9-8 in doubles as a freshman while playing with now-graduated Dusan Milijevic. He got to watch Spir and King a lot. He has the ultimate respect for his new partner’s old team, and is eager to follow Spir’s lead in being successful as a new unit.
“Juan and Kevin were the best team in the country last year. I got a lot of experience from him and I learned a lot from practicing with Kevin,” said Segura. “Hopefully I can do well with Juan in the next tournament.”
For Spir, becoming the leader on the court is something of a new role, but one Thorne believes is an important step forward the senior needs to, and shouldn’t be afraid, to make.
“Sometimes when you don’t have to step up and be a leader you kind of wait to see what happens,” he said. “Juan and Kevin both were top players last year. I think it was good for Kevin to take a leadership role. Juan understands this year that he’s a leader. That’s just the bottom line. It’s something that he’s going to have to do and it shouldn’t be uncomfortable for him because he’s already proven himself as one of the best doubles players in the nation as well as singles.”
Spir is ready to embrace that role, turning the page on his days with King. while writing a new chapter with Segura. He realizes that making new history Segura may require repeating some of the lessons of his early days with King.
“What me and Kevin did was great, but it was a process,” he said. “My freshman year we played together and we got some wins but we got a lot of losses as well. Then we matured as a team.
“So that’s the thing. When you’re training a doubles partner, you have to adapt to the talents of your partner,” he continued. “Hopefully with my experience now, here after three years, I can help Eddie go through that process a little bit faster. Learn how to play doubles quicker, get him used to it a little faster. Coach (Thorne) does a great job with doubles. He’s probably, if not the best, one of the best doubles coaches in the nation. So it’s just practices. Put in the hours and I’m sure Eddie and I will do great.”