Nov. 3, 2011
By Jon Cooper
One year and a rocketship ride up the collegiate rankings later, King and Spir are back at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., determined to take care of some unfinished business.
“Oh, yeah. We’re definitely excited,” said Spir. “We had a great time last year. We came up a little bit short in the semifinals. So hopefully this year we can bring back the title.”
They’re off to a good start.
Tech’s top-ranked team and the tournament’s top-seeded doubles team are in the Elite Eight after disposing of the No. 3 seed, Nathaniel Gery and Winston Lin of Columbia, 8-4 (they had a bye in the first round). They’ll face Florida’s duo of Billy Federhofer and Nassim Slilam on Friday.
King and Spir came to New York with tons of confidence, with a 34-11 career record, in addition to their appearance in 2010.
“We are a more experienced team,” Spir said. “Last year we went up there and we were kind of the underdogs. We were not ranked very high. We also come from making the finals at the All-American Tournament. So that’s also helped us get more confidence and be more poised on the big points.”
King won plenty of big points last week in winning the singles title at the Southeast Regional and getting to the quarterfinals in doubles with Dusan Miljevic. He will play singles and doubles again this weekend, only this time, he’s reunited with Spir. He’s excited about the reunion.
“It’s great,” he said. “We play well together and we’re very comfortable with each other on the court, so you don’t have to think much when we play together. So it’s nice.”
King, the 85th-ranked singles player, advanced in his first singles match, topping Vasko Mladenov of St. John’s, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, Thursday afternoon. The win raised his singles record to 13-2 in the fall and extended his current singles winning streak to seven straight matches. He will next play either No. 49 Chris Mengel of Duke or Christopher Aumueller of Nebraska.
King says the quicker court in New York should be advantageous.
“It will be a lot quicker so you’ll get a lot more payback from your serve,” King said. “It’s important to make a lot of first-serves and it’s important to get to net and finish points.”
While King is an underdog in singles, he and Spir are the favorites in doubles. That’s a far cry from last year when they were ranked 43rd. Going from the hunter to the hunted suits them just fine.
“We just take it one match at a time,” said King. “Focus on our game plan and just try to stick to the fundamentals.”
“If you compare it to last year, last year we just wanted to beat teams to get our rank higher,” said Spir. “Now we want to beat teams to protect our rank. It’s the same motivation. You want to win every match and get a title.”
Not only are King and Spir on the same page on the court, they’re in complete agreement as to what they’ll be thinking about once they’re off it. They’ll have Georgia on their mind, as teammates Miljevic and Eduardo Segura Mandarino are playing in the Bulldog Scramble in Athens.
“I’ll definitely be talking to the guys after our matches, seeing how they’re doing each day,” said King. “We’ll be pulling for them, for sure.”
“For sure,” agreed Spir. “We have two guys up in New York and we have two guys in Athens. So we’re definitely going to be looking in at what the other guys are doing. We’ll definitely be in touch.”