April 5, 2011
By Jon Cooper
By the end of the weekend, he may not have to.
Should Gomez win his singles match Friday when the Yellow Jackets take on Duke and Sunday when they meet North Carolina (both matches are at the Bill Moore Tennis Center, with a 3:00 start Friday and a noon start Sunday) it will be Thorne comparing himself to Gomez.
The senior from Alicante, Spain, enters the weekend with 111 career victories, one behind Thorne’s school record, which he set from 1985-88.
“People keep telling me about that but it’s not something that I think about when I’m going to play a match,” said Gomez, who is 26-6 on the season and a winner of nine straight matches. “The only thing I think is win the match for the team and just play hard as I can. Those thoughts have not been on my mind.
“It would definitely mean a lot,” he added. “Kenny Thorne has been a great tennis player, and played on the pro tour. I would never think that I could do this. So, it would mean a lot just because people like Kenny and [Georgia Tech Women’s Tennis Head Coach and Thorne’s teammate] Bryan [Shelton] are unbelievable tennis players. I didn’t think that I could do that. So it would be really awesome.”
It’s not that the subject hasn’t come up, just not lately.
“We joked about it a long time ago but we don’t think about it because the main goal for us is not that,” he said. “Our main goal is to win as a team.”
The Yellow Jackets have been doing plenty of that.
They’ll begin play on Friday second in the ACC with a 15-2 overall record and a 6-1 mark in the ACC and are coming off an impressive week in which they won three conference road matches (at Clemson, Boston College and Maryland) and dropped a total of three matches. Only Virginia, the nation’s top-ranked team (22-0, 7-0) is ahead of Tech in the conference — they’ll meet on April 16, in Charlottesville to close the season.
Gomez credits hard work for the team’s ability to win 14 of its last 15 matches.
“Even though the situations weren’t as good as we wanted, we fought through,” he said. “We have been able to win just by fighting and playing very hard every point. We didn’t do that against Miami but this week we did it so that’s a really important thing.”
Leave it to someone as competitive as Gomez to point out the one blemish on the team’s run (a 4-3 loss in Coral Gables on March 13). But that pursuit of perfection is what has brought him to the point of making school history.
“Ever since I came here I’ve been just going through every match just thinking that I’m going to fight my hardest and I know that if I do that I’m going to win,” said Gomez, who hasn’t tasted defeat since losing to Auburn’s Tim Puetz back on Feb. 20. “So in that sense, I haven’t changed. But since I have been here four years I have improved things in my game, my volleying, my serve and my conditioning. So my mindset is the same but I’ve improved those things since I’ve been here four years working really hard.”
While Gomez admits the competitor in him has led him to occasionally look ahead to Virginia and another match-up with their ace Michael Shabaz, who Gomez beat last year at the Moore Center, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 (their match in the ACC Tournament was unfinished), he knows better than to overlook Duke or North Carolina.
“We know Duke and North Carolina are really good,” he said. “We played Duke last year, we lost 4-3, a really tight match and I think that was a match that we should have won. So this year we’re very confident that we can beat them.
“North Carolina, we had a tough match at their place, we should have won. We lost the doubles in a tiebreaker and one match in the tiebreaker and two other matches in the third set that we should have won. So coming into that match I’m really confident we can beat North Carolina. They are both really good teams. They’re really high up but we’re definitely good enough to beat them.”