For the first time, I met and was able to have a conversation with a professional tennis player. Currently ranked 170 at the ATP world tour, I could not resist to ask Kevin King a few questions. Thanks again to him for his class, kindness, and punctuality.
When and why did you start playing tennis?
I started to play tennis when I was four years old. At that time my parents had moved into a house with a tennis court in the backyard. They played recreational tennis as adults, so I guess it was natural for me.
When did you start thinking that you had a certain potential?
I put in a lot of time training, especially as a teenager, and started to have more success. I went to College and played for four years at Georgia Tech with the goal of playing professionally afterwards.
Did you ever attend a tennis academy, like the Bollettieri Academy, for example?
No. I stayed with my coach the whole time from juniors to college.
Did your coach have experience with talented players like you who had the promise of a certain potential, or you were the first one?
My coach trained a lot of good college players. He was a very good college player as well. He also played professionally in few tournaments. He knew what he had to do to help me to better develop my game.
As a teenager, how many hours did you use to train daily?
I would say between four and six hours including time spent on and off the court.
How did you manage that intense training schedule while attending school?
I was home-schooled so that allowed me more time to train.
And now that you are a professional tennis player, how many hours a day do you train?
My training regimen varies depending on the time of year and the events that are coming up, but in general I train two to three hours on the court and one to two hours off the court.
When you started to train more seriously were you still able to focus on school?
My parents were always making sure that I stayed focus on school as well. I have always loved tennis, I have always loved competing but I have never thought that it was my only path.
I saw that you have a degree in mechanical engineering. Would you like to use your degree at the some point in your career or do you prefer to stay in the tennis world?
I am not sure exactly. I think I would enjoy going into engineering. Another option might be coaching college tennis. Both are good options.
As a foreigner I do not have the impression that in the US there is a lot of passion for tennis right now, unless one player goes to the final of a major tournament. In the 90’s you had some big names like Sampras, Courier and Agassi. Now it seems that it has become more difficult on the men’s side. What are your thoughts about that?
I think there are a lot popular sports in the US: American football, baseball, basketball. All of these sports draw a lot of attention. Americans like to follow the sports where Americans are doing well, it is the nature of sport. Americans are now starting to have some good players in the top 100, top 50 and top 20. Moving forward it is looking bright for Americans to do well again in tennis and to hopefully bring more and more into the game in the US.
You participated in a Grand Slam for the first time this year at the Australian Open, how did that feel?
It was an incredible experience. It was actually the first time that I was in the qualifying round of a Grand Slam. I was able to win 3 matches to get into the main draw and I ended up playing Tsonga. It was a pretty surreal experience. A great learning opportunity also.
Before participating in the Australian Open, you had to come back on the court after an injury, how did you feel during this period of time where you could not play. Did you have some doubts about coming back?
I had two hips surgeries but I had no doubt that I would come back. Anytime that you are out for a long period of time some doubts can creep in about the chance to be back at 100% but I had great people around me. I think that really helped me to have a quick come back.
How many people currently work with you on a daily basis?
It’s tough to have people travelling with me full time. But I have a lot of people supporting me from different places, such as coaches, trainers, and physios. When I see them they always help me, it makes a big difference.
Your ranking is now around 170, does this ranking allow you to make enough money to earn a living ?
The prize money has gone up to a decent amount over the last 5 to 10 years. I think it helps for people ranked around where I am ranked. It also depends on the particular tournament that you are doing well at, where you are having success. Thankfully I have been able to make enough money to keep going and to give myself the opportunity to do better.
It seems that this year has been your professional best, in terms of results. What are your expectations for the next three to four years?
My first goal is to continue to stay healthy, to compete at my best. I think that I have a high ceiling and I want to continue to move up in the rankings. I really want to focus on improving my game, focus on the day to day and see where the results take me.