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The pro you don’t know: Evan King

James Weaver/Daily
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BY MATT RUDNITSKY
Daily Sports Writer
Published March 19, 2011

We all know Denard Robinson.

Just like we all know Mike Martin, Darius Morris, Tim Hardaway Jr. and every other Michigan athlete with a legitimate shot at becoming a successful pro athlete.

They look the part, don’t blend in and can’t even walk through the Diag without turning a few nearby students into the likes of 12-year old girls at a Justin Bieber concert.

But what most students don’t realize is that there is a guy on campus who already is a professional athlete — sort of.

That guy is sophomore Evan King, No. 1 singles player for the No. 22 Michigan men’s tennis team.

A guy who has been virtually everywhere that matters in tennis, from Michigan's own Varsity Tennis Center on State Street all the way to the All-England Club in the Wimbledon district of London, England.

But nobody in Ann Arbor seems to notice.

***

The funny thing is that before Evan King became the Wolverines' top-ranked singles player, he was in the spotlight.

Now? Not so much.

At a school dominated by football, hockey and basketball, a tennis star isn’t exactly hounded all day by star-struck students, no matter how talented he is.

“I’ll run into a couple people (on campus) who played tournaments around the Midwest and ended up coming here,” King said. “They’re like, ‘Hey, I'm a tennis fan, I know about you — you're a top recruit!’ But it’s extremely rare.”

But before college, King was featured on the cover of RISE magazine (now ESPN RISE) and even served on a committee supporting Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid.

“It was just a bunch of hometown people who would have been the right age in 2016, in their prime, to be in the Olympics.” King said. “It was a great experience because we got to speak in front of the Olympic committee, show off our skills just a little bit, kind of demo stuff around.

“It was fun to meet a bunch of different world-class athletes that were my same age.”

While King might downplay the experience, it’s pretty clear what it meant.

At just 16 years old, the kid was considered a future Olympian. But in Ann Arbor, he’s more anonymous than the guys who produced the “The Pursuit of Jappiness” video.

***

Standing at the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, sliding across the fresh red clay of Roland Garros and patrolling the most famous courts in our country at Flushing Meadows would make any tennis player weak in the knees. It just doesn’t get any better.

But at 19 years old, Evan King has done it all.

King, who before college was No. 1 in the USTA 18-and-under rankings and No. 14 in the ITF rankings, was at the forefront of junior tennis as a teen. That means King was ranked above every junior tennis player in the US and was ranked 14th internationally.

With that came opportunities most teenagers could only dream of.

He got to play at the 2008 Junior Davis Cup — tennis’s version of the World Cup — in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, where he went 8-0, leading the United States to the title over Argentina.

He got to play at three of the junior Grand Slams — Wimbledon, the French Open and the US Open — sharing a locker room with the game’s biggest stars, marveling wide-eyed at Rafael Nadal’s gargantuan biceps and Roger Federer’s unmatched elegance.

He got to do just what Nadal, Federer and the other professionals do every year — the only difference being the “junior” preceding all of the legendary tournament 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 a badge; you feel important and can go into places where the normal population can’t really go.

“Every time, I see on TV — I didn’t play junior 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 crêpes 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.


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