Kevin King and Juan Spir’s career as Georgia Tech doubles partners came to an end last Friday. The team fell in the round of 16 at the NCAA tournament in Athens to Marcel and Chris Thiemann from Mississippi, twin brothers from Germany.
After match point, King and Spir, doubles partners for the last three years, shared a high five, a hug and a few words.
“I told him, ‘It was good,’” Spir said. “‘It was a good run.’”
Tech may not see a doubles team like King and Spir for a while. Coach Kenny Thorne paired them two years ago, when King was a sophomore and Spir a freshman. They went 71-26, including 22-5 this year. They were NCAA semifinalists a year ago, beating the top seed along the way, to earn All-America status. They won the USTA/ITA Southeast Regional in October and reached the round of 16 of the ITA national indoor championships in November. This spring, they were named All-ACC for the second year in a row.
“I’ve said it before,” Thorne said Friday. “I think they’re the best doubles team that’s ever come through Georgia Tech.”
Both have good serve-and-volley games, and King is a lefty while Spir is right-handed.
“It doesn’t let [opponents] get used to the returns, but we’re able to hold serve a lot,” Spir said.
That probably doesn’t explain it all. They are good friends who were dorm roommates for two years. Last summer, King, from Peachtree City, visited Spir in Medellin, Colombia.
“We played a little bit (of tennis) over there, but mostly it was getting to know my city and my family,” Spir said.
Crashing at Spir’s house, King immersed himself in his buddy’s world for two weeks to the best of his ability.
“His Spanish?” Spir asked. “Not very good.”
Their friendship has bolstered their play.
“We’re really comfortable with each other, complement each other well on the court,” King said. “Also, it’s good to be comfortable out there, not worrying about what the other person’s thinking.”
With the No. 3 seed, they had hoped for a deeper run in their final tournament together. They didn’t play their sharpest, and fell to the Thiemanns, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-4.
“It’s just two or three balls that make the difference,” Spir said. “We could have won the first set in a tiebreaker or closed it out in the third. But that’s a little bit of bad luck, and give them credit.”
Ole Miss broke Tech at 1-1 in the third set, and served for the match at 5-4. On the changeover, Spir and King realized that the end might be at hand.
But they rallied to earn a break point at 30-40 that, had they converted, would have tied the set at 5-5 and could have set the stage for a decisive tiebreaker.
On the point, one of the Thiemann brothers played a point from the baseline that the other called out. Spir, King and Thorne protested to the umpire to no avail. Mississippi served out for the match.
“It’s sad, you know?” Spir said. “We were trying to extend it as much as possible, but it was a good run.”
King, who also advanced to the second round of the NCAA singles tournament, will play a few professional events this summer, then come back in the fall for his final three classes to earn his mechanical engineering degree. Spir has one more year, after which he’ll also try his hand at professional tennis. They’ve talked about continuing the partnership at the professional level. The second act would have a lot to live up to.
“They brought a lot of recognition to Georgia Tech,” Thorne said. “A lot of class, a lot of character. Georgia Tech’s a better place with these guys for what they’ve done for our program.”
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog