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The Court Besters

Oct. 29, 2010

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

– The desire to play tennis at a high level brought Peachtree City’s Kevin King and Medellin, Colombia’s Juan Spir to Georgia Tech.

Injuries brought them to the same court as doubles partners.

After last weekend, it appears that nothing is going to bring them down or stop them from reaching their ultimate goal of a championship.

No one stopped them at last week’s USTA/ITA Southeast Regional in Gainesville, Fla., where King and Spir, ranked 43rd in the nation, took the doubles championship. They’ll play next weekend in the ITA National Indoor Championships in Flushing, N.Y.

“Going into the weekend we had been playing well,” said King. “We played all fall and most of last year together, so we were pretty confident going into the tournament, and we just went out there and did what we could do.

“The first couple of matches we started out and we were playing well,” he continued. “As the tournament went on we were complementing each other very well. We were making up for what the other person wasn’t necessarily doing well that day. We were just working well together as a team.”

“We had that feeling that we had to go out and get a title for the school and for us to build our confidence,” added Spir. “Match after match we started building on it and fortunately, we won.”

The duo dropped a total of 17 games in their six matches, with their toughest match came in the final, winning, 8-6. Their opponents were their Yellow Jackets teammates Eliot Potvin and Ryan Smith.

“It was definitely a different feeling playing them in the tournament, especially in the finals,” said King. “You’re always rooting for your teammates to do well. Having to play against them in the finals is a different experience. All four of us knew each other’s games well since we practice a lot together. It was unique.”

Winning the event was special for the duo, but Spir and King agreed that the highlight of the week came on the road to the final match, in dispatching two of the University of Georgia’s doubles teams in consecutive matches, taking out Drake Bernstein and Wil Spencer, 8-3, in the quarterfinals, then Sadio Doumbia and Ignacio Toboada, 8-5, in the semis.

“Winning the title was great, but the feeling after was not as good as it would have been had we played someone else just because you were playing your teammates,” said King. “So I would say winning those back-to-back against UGA was directly after the match was a better feeling.”

“Definitely beating two teams from UGA was very good,” added Spir, with a laugh. “As Kevin said, you always want your teammates to do well, and unfortunately, only one of the teams was going up to New York. So the title is amazing, but I think it was very nice to beat UGA teams. That was the best part of the week.”

The best is yet to come for the team which complements each other perfectly despite their disparate career goals — King is a mechanical engineering major, while Spir plans to major in international affairs.

“We both have good size, good serves, so we cover the court well and we have one lefty, one righty,” said the energetic King, who stands 6-2, 184. “In doubles that complements each other well and we’ve played together for over a year now. That helps.”

“As Kevin said, there are many factors,” added the broad-shouldered Spir, who stands 6-4, 194, and unleashes a blazing serve that is the hardest on the team. “We’re both tall, we have good volleys, I’m a righty, he’s a lefty. So that complements a lot of areas of the game.”

While there are a lot of commonalities that bring them together, Spir suggested there is one thing that sets him and his partner apart.

“I would say that hard work,” he said. “There are no guarantees that if you’re tall and you have good volleys you’re going to be a good doubles player. It’s also about working every day and bringing a good attitude to the match.”

Attitude won’t be a problem heading into next week, as they’re riding a tidal wave of confidence. That may have appeared to come to light from winning last weekend but actually was simply carryover from the start of the year, as they’d won eight of their nine matches heading into the Southeast Regionals.

They’re looking to simply continue building on that success as they move forward.

“You take one match at a time,” said King. “Just focus on what you’re working on. Just try and execute your game plan. The tournament up in New York is going to be some of the top doubles teams, so getting match play against the best will be very good for the spring.”

“I think that we’ve worked hard in doubles in practice. Last weekend, we built on that and we were pretty confident in our game plan,” said Spir. “We just have to take one match at a time. Every match is different, every situation is different and you have to be able to work through those situations in order to win.

“It’s disappointing that only one team could go up to New York,” he added. “But I’m sure that either way both teams are happy about the good tournament we had in the Regionals. You leave that one match behind and you keep working as a team.”

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