Sept. 13, 2009
by Jon Cooper, OSR Contributing Editor
OSR Sting EXTRA
ATLANTA — Kevin King should not have been playing on the Georgia Tech Men’s Tennis Team last season. In fact, he shouldn’t have been at Georgia Tech at all but rather enjoying his senior year of high school.
But performing beyond his years is pretty much the norm for the Peachtree City native. At 14 he won the Georgia State Championship in the Boys’ 16 division. At 16 he won the State Championship in the Boys’ 18 division, and was voted 2006 Male Player of the Year by the Georgia District of the United States Tennis Association.
With that kind of track record, why not take on the curriculum of Georgia Tech and Division I Tennis?
“He wasn’t your normal freshman coming in,” said Men’s Tennis Head Coach Kenny Thorne. “He’s a smart kid. I think you’re going to see him make a big splash on college tennis in the coming years. He’s working extremely hard on and off the court. He’s averaging over a 3.5 GPA, so he takes it seriously. He takes all areas of college seriously.”
King showed he should be taken seriously as a freshman, finishing with a 17-17 singles record (12-9 in dual match play), and, as a mechanical engineering major, earned a place on the 2009 All-Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Men’s Tennis Team, with teammates Guillermo Gomez and Ryan Smith.
He’s going to be taken even more seriously this season, after his showing at this summer’s USTA Boys’ 18 & 16 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., where King defeated Alexander Domijan, the top-ranked Junior player in the nation, 6-7(0), 6-4, 7-6(2).
“I had a game plan going into the match,” said King, who had lost in straight sets in his only other meeting with the 6-foot-7 Domijan. “I knew it would be a tough match. I knew I would have to play well. He played well and it just came down to a tie-breaker at the end.”
King showed his grit and maturity by bouncing back in the third-set tiebreaker, after letting two match points slip away. That mental strength impressed Thorne.
“I wasn’t at all surprised that he won because he’s got the ability. I was glad that he knew he could do it,” said Thorne. “He matured a lot in that match. It wasn’t whether he could do it, it was a matter that he felt he should do it.”
“It’s a big confidence-booster,” said King. “I’d been working hard all summer trying to accomplish my goals and it helps knowing that the work is paying off and it gives me confidence going into this season.”
The confidence to play big nicely complements his actual physical size. At 6-foot-2, King is the tallest player on the Tech team, and usually the tallest on the court.
“Being bigger helps, especially on the serve, and being a lefty also,” he said. “I’m trying to develop that into a weapon. It helps me getting offensive in points and getting to net and having some reach at net. So for my game style is suits me pretty well.”
Improving his footwork and his consistency are the biggest areas King continues to work on heading into the coming season.
“He’s got a big enough game to hang with anybody as long as he’s consistent,” said Thorne. “I think he’ll be right there at the top with any college player.”
Thorne also sees King growing as a team leader. “I think his work ethic has absolutely set a standard that the guys will look at,” he said. “In that way he’s a natural leader. You can tell the seriousness by his actions and by his results. He is a natural leader.”