Evan King’s competitive season started earlier than his most of his teammates’ competitive seasons on the Michigan men’s tennis team. Instead of competing for bragging rights in the non-scoring events of the fall season, King competed for the first national championship of his junior campaign on Thursday.
The junior earned an invite to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s All-American Championships as the No. 7 seed in the main singles draw. King also paired with sophomore Shaun Bernstein in doubles in the qualifying bracket.
King kicked off his tournament on Tuesday morning by playing doubles with Bernstein against Oklahoma. The 33rd-ranked pair jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead and at one point held a 6-5 advantage. But the momentum turned, and their opponents from Oklahoma took the next three games to win the eight-game pro-set.
“There’s definitely not shock that they lost,” said Michigan coach Bruce Berque. “The margin is usually pretty small in doubles, and they can beat some of the better teams in the country, but everyone’s good at this level.”
The pair of Sooners went on to qualify for the main draw before being eliminated in the quarterfinals.
King played in his first singles match against No. 22 Kyle McMorrow from Washington on Thursday. After a tight first set, King dropped the seven-point tiebreaker. In the second set, it was all McMorrow, and he sent King into the consolation bracket.
“(King) didn’t execute as well as he wanted to, and that for him affects him a little bit mentally,” Berque said. “He didn’t make the mental adjustments he needed to make and ended up losing, but then again that guy was good.”
Although King’s loss put him out of contention for the 2011-12 season’s first National Championship, he took the court Thursday with a shot to win the consolation bracket. He cruised in his first match, winning six straight games after losing the first in the second set against LSU’s Neal Skupski.
King’s second match in the back draw was on Friday. He defeated No. 32 Devin McCarthy of Ohio State, 6-3, 6-4. McCarthy played at the bottom of the Buckeye lineup last season and would have otherwise never played a match against King.
King’s win over McCarthy earned him a match against the tournament’s No. 3 seed, Eric Quigley, who was also upset in the first round of the main draw.
Quigley, the three-time All-American from Kentucky, took the first set. King clawed back in the second set and was able to break Quigley’s serve to send the match to a decisive third set. But the more experienced Quigley broke King at four games apiece. The top Wildcat player then held his serve to clinch the set and the match, advancing to the semifinals of the consolation draw.
“They had a good, long, close match,” Berque said. “(King) needs to work on all the physical skills and continue to work on mental skills as well, but he’s one of the best guys out there and he needs to keep plugging away like we all do.”
King’s two losses at the ITA All-American Championships were his first of the season, but he will get back to work for his next appearance at the ITA Midwest Regional Championships. There, he will be joined by Bernstein — who was unable to qualify for the main singles draw on Monday — and the rest of the Michigan team.
“I think (Bernstein) is making progress and playing better than he was last year at this time,” Berque said. “His goal is to play high in the lineup and be a lead spot on this team, so this tournament was exactly what he wanted to see where he was compared to some of the better players in the country, and we don’t feel like there’s that much separating him.”