Evan King has been piling up frequent flyer miles lately. A week ago the 24-year-old tennis player won a tournament in Tokyo, his 14th doubles title. Four connecting flights later he added to his trophy case again, this time at the Miller Tennis Center – more than 6,000 miles away.
King, a University at Michigan graduate, upset No. 1 seed Australian Gavin Van Peperzeel, 7-6, 6-3, Sunday to become the first American champion in the USTA Pro Circuit Sargent & Collins Men’s $10,000 Futures Tournament’s three-year history.
“I’ve played a lot of matches recently and I’m on a nice little winning streak,” King said. “That confidence in tough situations gives you the ability to execute in those situations.”
King finished the four-round tournament without dropping a single set.
The match was closely contested despite the final score. King faced two set points in the first set, coming back from 5-6 to win the tiebreaker. The two seemed equal nearly every volley of the match, yet King often forced Van Peperzeel into little mistakes. Eventually, they added up.
Since King hits left-handed and Van Peperzeel right, both came in with the same strategy – beat the opponent on their offhand.
“I think in the beginning of the match he did it better than I did,” King said. “At the end of the match I got into a pattern. I was starting to execute on my backhand down the line more. I was moving well, so I was able to hit most of my forehands. That was the difference.”
“His ability today to not miss was pretty incredible,” Van Peperzeel said. “He made no or hardly any unforced errors. He just made my life tough.”
King is in his third year playing professionally after a decorated career at Michigan, where he was a three-time All-American and two-time Big Ten Athlete of the Year in men’s tennis. It’s certainly more hectic, with more travel and often more matches. He’s also facing players like Van Peperzeel, who have been competing professionally for far longer.
“I respect those guys so much,” King said. “I have so much respect for the ups and downs he’s had to go through from being a professional as a kid.”
That all being said, the journey has been a fun one for King, who has worked his way into the top 400 in the ATP rankings. He’s grateful for the chance to play the sport he loves for a living, since, as he said, one freak injury can change everything.
He’s sticking to North America for the rest of the summer after spending five weeks in Asia, three in China and two in Japan. Next weekend he’s competing in a wild-card qualifier for the U.S. Open. After that he plans to play in futures tournaments across the U.S. and Canada.
“I’m enjoying this pro thing,” King said. “I enjoying travelling all over the world and having an excuse to travel to cool places while hitting a tennis ball.”