Nov. 4, 2011
Flushing, N.Y. – Eliot Potvin, who completed his four-year career with the Yellow Jackets’ tennis team last spring, is in New York this weekend covering his former teammates, Kevin King and Juan Spir, as they compete for the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships at the National Tennis Center. Here is his second installment.
We woke up at 6 a.m. this morning and stopped to get a taste of New York at a classic 24-hour diner on our way to a 7:45 practice. Many omelets and cups of coffee later, the four of us got to the National Tennis Center. Spir and King got warmed up, Kenny mingled with fellow coaches, and I walked around with my camera trying to capture the essence of Georgia Tech Tennis. 9:30 came quickly and our top-seeded doubles team took the court against Columbia University.
Columbia started with two shaky points and I was thinking that the “1” next to “King/Spir” on the draw was going to get us an easy start to the tournament. I made a pretty poor assumption. Nathaniel Gery and Winston Lin recorded 4 straight service points and found a rhythm on their returns that had my palms sweating just a bit. Two more games to Columbia, and a few good returns from Gery and Lin, and Kev and Juancho found themselves in a bit of a whole: Juan was serving 0-3, 15-40. This fourth game was where the match hinged.
An 8-game pro set of doubles, especially one played indoors, is a tough match to come back in. Good thing for our guys, Juan found a rhythm and popped 3 big first serves to get the Jackets a hold. 1-3. “We knew we were in a tough situation,” Spir said, “but we stuck to our game and knew that we were good enough to pull that game out and get that break back.”
The feeling I got after that game was that a sleeping giant had been woken. Kevin found his returns and started getting all over the net. Columbia hung on to their service game at 3-3, and it appeared we were locked in a battle at 4-4. Not quite. At 0-15 Spir ripped a forehand down the line return winner, Kevin returned the server’s shoelaces, and on break point Spir hit another down the line return winner, this time with his backhand. The rest of the match? History. 8-4 to the Jackets, and a second-round spot for the nation’s top ranked team.
After meeting with Coach Thorne, the guys were ready for some lunch. We grabbed Subway on the way back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit before Kevin’s 2 p.m. singles match against St. John’s.
Kevin came out swinging and played some great tennis in the first set, taking it 6-1. Vasko Mladenov, his opponent, rebounded well and fought back hard. Kevin played one sloppy service game at 1-2 (2 double faults and an error on the first ball of a rally) and couldn’t get the break back; he dropped the set 6-3. But Kev kept his focus and started the third with an impressive 40-0 hold. Mladenov responded with his own 40-0 hold. So Kevin answered with more of the same. 2-1 for Georgia Tech, on serve. Kenny explained that the fourth game of the third set was pivotal, just as the fourth game of the second set had been. Kevin battled hard. He lost a few break chances, but kept on fighting, defending, attacking. Ultimately, he prevailed with a backhand passing shot and followed it up with a loud “c’mon.” 3-1 Tech.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing after Kev got his break though. He had to battle back from 0-30 down in his service game at 4-2 and faced a break point when he served for the match at 5-3. In the end, Kevin moved on with a hard-fought 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win. Well done. At times, it was stressful for Nuala and Bill to watch but they both pulled through and Kevin felt the support.
“It’s always great to have family cheering for you,” Kev said, “I really appreciate having people here to support me.”
As Spir simply put it, “2 for 2.” A good day for Georgia Tech. Hopefully we can keep that same winning percentage all the way through Sunday!
Now we’re relaxing in the room after enjoying a great meal at what Kevin called “an unbelievable Italian restaurant.” Tomorrow will start off with doubles at 9:00 (against Florida) and then Kevin will play singles at 11:30 a.m.
Follow us on ramblinwreck.com, twitter at @GT_MTEN, or on the ITA National Indoors website. Heading to bed soon and getting ready for another good day tomorrow! Go Jackets!!