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April 04, 2011 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

April 4, 2011 - 3B

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom April 4, 2011 - 3B

KING
From Page 1B
-ference being the "junior" pre-
ceding all of the legendary tour-
nament names. And soon enough,
that word will disappear for him.
"It was awesome," King said. "It
was a little bit overwhelming at
first; you're in the same place, the
same locker rooms as all of the
famous players. You've got abadge;
you feel important and can go into
places where the normal popula-
tion can't really go.
"Every time, I see on TV - I
didn't playjunior Australian which
I kind of wish I could have done
- when like the French Open is
on, or Wimbledon is on, or the US
Open is on, they'll show an aerial
view of all the grounds and I'll be
like, 'Oh yeah, I was there.' Or, 'Oh
yeah, I played on that court.'
"Or, 'You remember that one
time I was eating crepes in Paris?"'
King has had some success at
the majors, too, most notably as
a 2009 doubles quarterfinalist at
Junior Wimbledon.
And in his favorite event - the
Junior US Open - King, playing
with his friend Denis Kudla, took
out the tournament's top seed in
2009 playing doubles. He also
pulled an upset of the No. 5 seed
in the singles, but in both draws,
fell in the following round. Then
in 2010, he took out the tourna-
ment's No. 6seed in the firstround,
cruised to a double-bagel, 6-0, 6-0
victory in the second round and
then finally lost to the No. 10 seed
Kudla, who took champion Jack
Sock to three-sets in the finals.
"Tennis has taken me to Brazil,
it has taken me to Europe," King
said. "It has taken me everywhere
in North America.
"I guess not many 18, 19 year-
old guys can really say that they've
been all around the world."
Guess not.
Evan King went to a
normal high school, once. He even
played in the Illinois State Cham-
pionships for tennis, winning eas-
ily as a sophomore.
"I think my closest match was
6-1, 6-3, or something like that,"
King said, casually downplaying
a feat most high-schoolers would
love to accomplish.
"(After winning state) I had
to really make the decision, was
(tennis) something I really, really
wanted to focus on and improve
on? I knew my development would
kind of stunt if I stayed at home. So
r that was a really, really big decision
the summer after my sophomore
year.
"I decided to go to Florida to
train at the USTA Training Acad-
emy, just for tennis basically, to try
and improve my game."
. Located in Boca Raton, Fla., the
USTA Training Center chooses a
select few of the nation's top junior
players and trains them full-time
- while providing them a Kaplan
online education - for the sole
purpose of molding them into pro-
fessional tennis players.
"It was basically all about ten-
nis down there," King said. "Their
goal down there is basically to pro-
duce a top-100 tennis player."
Florida was no walk in the park.
And it wasn't high school tennis. It
wasn't even college tennis. It was
tougher.

Playing with the country's
brightest young stars - the class
included some current pros and
No. 19-ranked Ohio State sopho-
more Chase Buchanan - King
went through a grueling daily
schedule for two years. Buchanan
ended the recruiting process as the
No.1 prospect in the 2009 class.
"So, pretty strict schedule day-

to-day," King said, describing his
daily routine. "Just wake up - it
was online schooling, so you'd
have like two hours ofcstudy hall in
the morning - then you had ten-
nis, then you had fitness, then you
had lunch.
"Then you had another two
hours of school, and then, ten-
nis, fitness, lunch, and just repeat,
Monday through Friday. And then
Saturday morning, that again, and
then you kind of got Sunday off."
So when he made the transition
to college athletics - something
that normally involves a lot of
sweat and pain mixed with vomit
for a freshman - King was rela-
tively unfazed.
"There was more tennis in
Florida because the school sched-
ule was a ton more flexible," King
said. "Everything was online so it
was basically at your own discre-
tion to do the work. So instead of
playing once a day for three hours
like we do here, we played twice a
day there for four hours. But con-
ditioning and weight lifting was
pretty similar-type stuff.
"It was a pretty smooth transi-
tion from Florida to Michigan, I
think, for me."
Try telling that to your average
college freshman, athlete or not.
Fortunately for King, the
money involved in NCAA tennis
pales in comparison to football -
tennis players don't have to deal
with Reggie Bush or Cam Newton-
like temptations.
Still, he was in their league as a
recruit. And he got his fair share of
attention.
"I really enjoyed (the recruit-
ing process) because every match
I played during the summer of
my junior year and the fall of my
senior year, there were tons of col-
lege coaches watching every single
match I played," Kingsaid.
"You get calls and they discuss
their programs - what they can
give to you and what you can gain,
stuff like that. I mean, I really, real-
ly enjoyed the process."
King ranked as high as the
nation's No. 2 prospect by Ten-
nisrecruiting.net and No. 1 in the
TennisRPI rankings - the same
system used by the NCAA Tour-
nament Selection Committee in
basketball.
He won the 18-and-under sin-
gles title at the 2009 Easter Bowl
ITF Championships in Rancho
Mirage, Calif. - one of the most
prestigious tournaments in junior
tennis - and the 2008 USTA
National Clay Courts title, as a
16-year old playing in the 18-and-
under division.
But that only scratches the sur-
face of King's junior success.
With a chance to go to nearly
any college he wanted to, King
faced a tough choice. Growing up
in Chicago and watching North-
western tennis, he had an affinity
for the Big Ten.
So he didn't struggle much in
narrowing down his choices to
Michigan, Ohio State and Illinois.
But choosing Michigan wasn't
exactly a no-brainer. Ohio State
and Illinois are Big Ten and
national powerhouses. As a com-
petitive kid, it's tough to pass that
up. But King did it anyway.
Citing the balance between the
styles of Michigan's head coach,
Bruce Berque and its assistant
coach, Sean Maymi - not to men-

tion their vast knowledge of the
game and stellar reputations -
King chose to go blue.
"And out of the three, academi-
cally, I mean, if it was close, then
(Michigan) is so much better,"
King said, smiling.
Now that's a Michigan man.
King's freshman year

was solid, but unspectacular.
Playing mostly No. 2 singles -
with a few matches at No. 1 - he
went 21-13 in singles as a fresh-
man, with a 14-9 record in dual-
matches.
That was good enough to earn
him All-Big Ten Honors and tobe
named Big Ten Freshman of the
Year. But it didn't make a huge
splash on the national stage.
On the other hand, as a sopho-
more, King is winning at a rate that
would make Charlie Sheen jealous.
Prior to losing on Saturday, he
had won 12 matches ina row at No.
1 singles. And nearly all of them
came against ranked opponents,
including a straight-sets win over
No. 6 Reid Carleton of Duke.
The Wolverines have faced
eight top-25 teams in their first
seventeen dual-matches, but King
has emerged nearly unscathed,
going15-2 while facing each team's
top dog.
He's gone from being (laugh-
ably) unranked to start the season,
toNo.21nationally.And ifhekeeps
up his current pace, that ranking
will keep climbing. Fast.
"Individually, I'd love to win
(individual) NCAA's," King said.
"That's an extremely tough task;
there are a ton of really solid play-
ers in college.
"But that's my ultimate college
goal: to win NCAA's."
Trailing No. 45 Wake For-
est senior Jonathan Wolff 5-0 on
Saturday, Feb. 5, King demon-
strated what sets him apart from
the average racket-slamming,
profanity-howling player. Peering
at his perennially-calm demeanor,
you'd never know if he was trail-
ing the No. 45 player in the nation
5-0, cruising to a 6-2,6-3 trouncing
of No. 6 Carleton or casually beat-
ing one of his buddies in a game of
ping-pong, as he so enjoys.

of frustration.
You won't see him sulk. And you
won't see him choke.
"The mental component is so
big because once you get to a cer-
tain level in tennis, everybody can
pretty much hit every shot," King
said. "So it's basically what you do
with what shot, when you decide
to make a decision, how cool you
are under pressure."
King's balance of enthusiasm,
relaxation and ferocity is a sight to
behold, one that engages the crowd
and lifts his intensity, but some-
how, keeps him calm.
"I'm a really, really relaxed indi-
vidual," explained King, leaning
back in his chair, with his trade-
mark sincere, serene, focused look
pinned to his face.
You just can't faze him.
King won't buckle
under pressure.
But for any future opponents, all
hope isn't lost. There is something
that makes King's cool crack.
"(My serve speed) is like a sore
subject with me," King said, grit-
ting his teeth, reluctantly continu-
ing. "I played US Open juniors this
year and we had radar guns and all
that really cool stuff, and I couldn't
break 120. I got 119.I cannot break
120.
"I was really embarrassed about
that, butI got 119.I didn't purpose-
ly go like, 'Boom,' see how hard
I could actually hit it, but in the
course of the match, I didn't break
120. I always thought that I could
crank it up a little bit higher than
that, butI don'tknow.
"I wish we had radar guns here,
so I could see that, but 119 I guess
is officially the fastest I've served.
But Im pretty sure I can get higher
than that, so next time I'm in that
kind of situation I'm just gonna go
crank one as fast as I possibly can
just to know."

Sophomore Evan King started the season unranked, but now he sits at No. 21.

If
et
his
Non
always
In t
King k
next 17
6-1 vict
"I n
knew I
and th
King sa
"I gt
tating

Because of the sheer
he keeps his nature of professional tennis,acol-
legiate player is actually allowed
irrent pace, to play professional tournaments
while retaininghis amateurstatus.
ranking w ill King has played multiple
futures-level tournaments - sort
rise. Fast. of the Double-A ball of tennis -
because the purses at the tourna-
ments are low enough that the
money he can make is less than his
natter the situation, King is travel expenses. And if it is more,
relaxedhut locked in. he can simply refuse the prize
he match against Wolff, money.
ept his cool, taking 14 of the He hasn't exactly been Roger
games to secure a 2-6, 6-1, Federer, but King has had success
ory. professionally, with a 15-12 singles
ever was rattled because I record. He even has a professional
had to fix a couple of things title to his name, winning a dou-
e match would, be mine," bles tournament in Godfrey, Ill.
id after the win. with his friend Jordan Cox.
ot a game plan, started dic- How many college athletes can
a little bit more, started say that?

cally model their game off of a pro,
but I try to play like that."
King had a choice.
There's no "one-and-done" rule in
tennis.
He could be a pro, right now.
Successful pro tennis players,
especially Americans, who took
the college route are a steadily
growing trend - like James
Blake, John Isner and Bob and
Mike Bryan - but they're still the
minority..
Stars like Andre Agassi, who,
per CNN, was once a two year-old
prodigy "running around with
a racket taped to his hand and
sleeping with a tennis ball over his
head," turned pro as early as 16,
putting guys like King behind the
eight ball while pursuing higher
education.
. But King stands by his choice to
go to college.
"I think for each individual it's
different because most pro ten-
nis players really don't reach their
success until they're like 22, 23,
24 years old," King said. "So that
means if a guy turns pro at 17,
that's a good five or six years that
they're struggling week in, week
out, playingfutures and challenger
level tournaments, with a ranking
somewhere around the 600s, trav-
eling week-to-week'to different
countries.
"And I mean, for me, I'd rather
be in a stable environment; I know
my game is improving here. But
for other people, they'd rather be
out there playing tournaments and
traveling the world. I couldn't real-
ly deal with playing a tournament
20 weeks out of the year and if
you have a good year you win one,
maybe two of those tournaments
when you're my age."
What if he had taken
the other path?

Two of King's best friends,
Denis Kudla and Jordan Cox,
skipped college and went straight
to the pros. It hasn't worked out
badly for them, either. Kudla
already owns a Futures tourna-
mentsingles title and is ranked No.
462 in the world. Cox is ranked No.
449.
"I think for me it's the right
choice," King said. "But (Kudla
and Cox) are pro right now floating
around the 500 (ranking) range,
and that was the right choice for
them. But this was definitely the
right choice for me."
Still, it makes you wonder
where King would be right now if
he hadn't gone to Michigan.
"(Kudla and Cox) are the same
age (as me). We traveled to Europe
in juniors together, played the
junior grand slams, we were dou-
bles partners, and we're all the
same level. So for me, it's kind of
interesting to see who will be the
most successful. It's kind of like
a little friendly rivalry, which is
cool."
We're all the same level.
Let that sink in. King - just
a 19-year old sophomore - is on
the same level as two guys ranked
above allbut about 450 guys in the
entire world.
And if you want to talk strict-
ly in terms of our country,- as
Americans often love to do - Cox
is the 29th-ranked American while
Kudla is 30th.
Just think about it. Say all goes
according to plan and Denard Rob-
inson is picked near the end of the
first round of the NFL Draft in a
couple of years. That would mean
he's one of the best 32 players in the
country in that year's draft, one of
about 1,700 players in the NFL.
But King might just be as good
as all but 30 people in the country,
of any age. Right now.
So you should probably get to
know his name.
It's Evan King.

using the crowd and enjoying it
and was just having a good time
out there."
Most tennis players aren't "hav-
ing a good time" trailinglS-0 in the
first set of a big match.
Still, after whipping a fore-
hand passing shot worthy of the
highlight reel on a dead sprint
that bear-hugged the line, King
didn't hesitate to let out a Nadal-
esque "Come on!" that ignited
the record-setting crowd, forcing
them to gather their sunken jaws
off the Varsity Tennis Center's car-
peted floor.
Moments like that aren't out of
the ordinary for King, who con-
stantly pumps himself (and his
teammates) up with booming "Go
Blue" and "Here we go Michigan"
cries that can probably be heard in
his native city of Chicago.
You can hear King yell. You can
hear him cheer. And it's loud.
But his yells will always be
encouraging. They won't come out

Just because King
chose to stay away from the grind
of the pro tour for a few years
doesn't mean he won't get there.
King knows that the old-school
notion of college tennis being a
hindrance to development is a
bunch of Oscar Meyer's finest
bologna, and he's determined to
make tennis his career.
"I just want to be the best I
possibly can, and hopefully that
means traveling the world play-
ing ATP-level stuff, so that would
mean I'm probably a top-50 or 60
player, something like that.
"(My goal is) just traveling the
world, making money, playing ten-
nis. That would be unbelievable."
Still, the adjustment from the
college game to the pros is a big
one. King realizes that in college,
he won't play anybody older than
23 years, even in the most extreme
case. But he could be playing a
futures tournament this summer,
matched up against a 29-year old
veteran who oozes experience and
savvy.
"I'm not saying the level is any
better (in the pros) because there
are a ton of great guys in college,
but I guess the pro guys have more
experience," Kingsaid.
"And I know that everything (in
my game) can improve. I'd love to
have a bomb serve by the time I get
out of here."
While King's a great athlete
with top-end speed, his game is
nothing like Rafael Nadal's - even
if both are lefties and have stellar
baseline forehands.
"I guess I kind of aspire to be a
player like (ATP No. 9 Fernando)
Verdasco," King said. "Pretty big
forehand, solid off both sides,
spends most of his time on the
baseline, but can come in (to net).
"I've got a long way to go to get
to that level, but I try to model
myself as that type of player. I
don't think anyone can realisti-

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Sophomore Evan King models his game after Fernanado Verdasco, the No. 9 player in the world.

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