Jan. 17, 2013
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech’s men’s tennis team gets its first chance to play in the brand-new Ken Byers Tennis Complex Friday, opening its 2013 spring dual season with a double-header against Old Dominion at 1:30 p.m. and Lipscomb at 7 p.m.
Head coach Kenny Thorne begins his 15th spring season on the Flats by welcoming an old friend in ODU head coach Aljosa Piric, who was Thorne’s assistant for three seasons, and hoping to improve upon a 9-13 dual-match record last spring. Piric helped the Yellow Jackets to NCAA Tournament appearances in 2010 and 2011.
Admission is free for both matches, and parking is available in the McCamish Pavilion lot, 8th Street or Fowler Street.
“We’re honored to be opening the season tomorrow in the brand new Ken Byers Tennis Complex,” said Tech head coach Kenny Thorne. “We are very thankful to Ken and Trish Byers who have been friends of the program for years. It is humbling as well as inspiring to be moving in to such an incredible facility. So many people, including Sandra and Allen Ecker, the Bill Moore family, Art Brannen, Meade Sutterfield, there will automatically be great energy . Our job is to make our alumni proud of our program and to entertain them. Most people I know are proud of winning programs so that is our goal.”
Tech defeated ODU, 7-0, to begin last season, but the Monarchs shook off their 0-3 start to finish 13-10 and reach the second round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. Lipscomb was 8-10 overall, 3-4 in the Atlantic Sun.
An All-American in doubles the last two years, Spir got off to a good start last weekend by totaling five wins in singles and doubles play at the Illini Open at Fort Myers, Fla., for which he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Tennis Player of the Week.
Spir, from Medellin, Colombia, and doubles partner Vikram Hundal, a sophomore from Alpharetta, Ga., opened the spring No. 3 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association doubles rankings after winning eight of nine matches in the fall and winning the USTA/ITA Southeast Region championship. They won all three of their matches at the Illini Open, including a victory over the 45th-ranked duo of Florent Diep and Michael Alford of Florida.
In singles action, Spir, ranked No. 32 in the ITA singles rankings, went 2-1 in the first weekend of the spring season. After Spir defeated Illinois’ Tim Kopinski (5-7, 6-4, 6-4) on the opening day of play, he rallied to beat NC State’s Robbie Mudge (6-7 (4-7) 6-4, 6-3) on the second day of competition. His lone loss of the tournament was to Florida’s No. 26 Diep. Spir is 10-4 for the year.
Fellow senior Melian, from Las Palmas, Spain, went 3-0 in his singles matches last weekend and is 9-3 for the year. He and Spir will anchor the top of Tech’s singles lineup.
Thorne’s most experienced player after that is Segura from Madrid, Spain, who went 1-2 last weekend and 2-4 in the fall after a solid freshman campaign at the bottom of Tech’s lineup. Hundal, who got regular play late last spring and went 5-7 in dual matches, went 4-2 in the fall before dropping three matches last weekend. Fellow sophomore Colin Edwards of Valrico, Fla., has seen limited play due to injuries.
After that, Thorne will fill out his lineup with freshmen. Rakitt, of Marietta, Ga., was the best of that group in the fall, forging a 9-4 record, while Gordon, also of Marietta, went 4-3. Both players failed to win a match last weekend at the Illini Open, however. The third freshman, Anish Sharma of Alpharetta, won both of his matches last weekend after a 3-6 fall season.
“We are looking for good leadership from our seniors, Juan Spir and Juan Melian,” said Thorne. “Our schedule is very tough all throughout this season so we look forward to our seniors responding well to the challenges this entire season. We had some very good matches this past weekend to prepare us for tomorrow. Aljosa has done a great job at ODU and we know they will be coached well. We need to simply focus on improving from last weekend. I love that we will have a good tough first day of team competition.”
Following Friday’s action, Tech participates in the ITA Kickoff Weekend against Fresno State, San Diego and Southern California in Los Angeles.