Evan King: With Outrage There Comes Hope

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Chicago native Evan King, a three-time All-American tennis player at the University of Michigan, admits he’s one of the only American players who prefers to play outside of the United States. “I feel safer walking down the street in Kazakhstan or Bosnia than some of the places I travel to in my own country,” he said.

King, 28, expressed his thoughts in a first-person essay he wrote for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet, the brainchild of fellow American professional Noah Rubin, that was published on Thursday. He is currently ranked No. 407 in the ATP Rankings and his career-best No. 185 came more than two years ago. While King compiled a 159-88 win-loss record and won six titles on the ITF circuit, he’s 62-94 in ATP Challenger matches and still looking for that elusive first title. He has played only five lifetime ATP Tour-level matches, going 1-4.

King began his Behind The Racquet essay:

Early 2015 was a pretty dark time for me. I had decided to quit professional tennis, get out of that bubble and enter the real world. With that lifestyle change came more time to live, reflect and consume everything outside of the professional tennis world. Around that time, there were a few high profile race-based killings in the United States. The murder that received the most publicity at the time was Trayvon Martin. There were a lot of others that didn’t grab mainstream media’s attention but these stories kept repeating themselves with no real change.

As these murders kept occurring, and I was no longer solely consumed with that fuzzy yellow ball, I came to the realization that any one of those killings could have been me. I could have been that kid walking back from 7/11 wearing a hoodie and getting Skittles or more recently, I could have been Ahmaud Arbery going for a run in a white neighborhood before getting shot. Those realizations took me to a dark place. I was 22 and I was starting to think about what I was leaving behind in the world if my life ended unexpectedly. I thought I wanted a kid, strictly to leave something behind if I died. To make sure my family lineage didn’t end with me.

Then, King expressed a feeling of despair, writing “I felt a shot clock on my life, way sooner than normal. My goal was to make it to 25 and the rest I considered borrowed time.”

I felt lucky to be alive. I started taking walks in the cemetery multiple times a week. I would look at the tombstones and get emotional if the deceased were younger than me. Not all of these deaths were racially charged, but I kept going on these walks for the perspective and appreciation that I had made it to see 23 when I knew some others didn’t live a full life. I felt a shot clock on my life, way sooner than normal. My goal was to make it to 25 and the rest I considered borrowed time.

These feelings lasted a few months. Over time, I found ways to cope with my thoughts and to numb that outlook I had on life. I had a great crew of people that kept me from walking through the damn cemetery. I went back on tour. Since then, I’ve done a ton of international travel. I’m one of the only American players who prefers to play outside of America. I feel safer walking down the street in Kazakhstan or Bosnia than some of the places I travel to in my own country.

After starting the year playing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he attended college, in an ATP Challenger event, King has hopscotched throughout the Asian Pacific and North America, playing in tournaments in Bangkok, Thailand; Burnie and Lanceston, Australia; Morelos and Monterrey, Mexico; and Calgary, Canada. His 2020 record is 4-7.

I’m sharing all of this now with the hope that people reach out to their crew to make sure they’re ok. This is a wild time and you don’t know who is affected or how they are affected. On the surface in 2015, I might have seemed ok but it was a dark time.

Fast forward to 2020, I’m 28 now. I’m able to smile and embrace that earlier period of my life. The stories and conversations continue but there is more general public outrage which is a good change. It’s needed but with that outrage, don’t forget to reach out to your own crew to make sure they’re ok.

After King’s Behind The Racquet essay was published, it received much positive feedback. Rubin wrote, “We are thankful Evan was willing to share his experience with everyone.”

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“Early 2015 was a dark time for me. I had decided to quit professional tennis, get out of that bubble and enter the real world. With that lifestyle change came more time to consume everything outside of the professional tennis world. Around that time, there were a few high profile race-based killings in the United States. The murder that received the most publicity was Trayvon Martin. There were a lot of others that didn’t grab mainstream media’s attention but these stories kept repeating themselves with no real change. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I came to the realization that any one of those killings could have been me. I could have been that kid walking back from 7/11 wearing a hoodie and getting Skittles or more recently, I could have been Ahmaud Arbery going for a run in a white neighborhood. I was 22 and I was starting to think about what I was leaving behind in the world if my life ended unexpectedly. I thought I wanted a kid, strictly to leave something behind if I died. To make sure my family lineage didn’t end with me. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I felt lucky to be alive. I started taking walks in the cemetery multiple times a week. I would look at the tombstones and get emotional if the deceased were younger than me. I felt a shot clock on my life, way sooner than normal. My goal was to make it to 25 and the rest I considered borrowed time. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ These feelings lasted a few months. Over time, I found ways to cope with my thoughts and to numb that outlook I had on life. I had a great crew of people that kept me from walking through the damn cemetery. I went back on tour. Since then, I’ve done a ton of international travel. I’m one of the only American players who prefers to play outside of America. I feel safer walking down the street in Kazakhstan or Bosnia than some of the places I travel to in my own country.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I’m sharing all of this now with the hope that people reach out to their crew and their loved ones to make sure they’re ok. This is a wild time and you don’t know who is affected or how they are affected.” @evankingchicago #BTR ⁣⁣ Go to behindtheracquet.com for extended stories, podcasts, and merch.

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Region of Valencia Tennis Challenge – Day One

The Cumbre del Sol is a breathtaking, natural enclave that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea in Benitachell between Javea and Moraira in Alicante, Spain. It was the setting for the return to pro tennis in Spain on Friday with the Region of Valencia Tennis Challenge, a three-day, socially-distanced round-robin format on red clay featuring Spaniards Pablo Andjuar, Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreño Busta, and Australian Alex de Minaur, who moved to Alicante as a five-year-old and splits his time between Spain and Australia.

With health and safety in mind, players walked out onto the court under sunny and windy conditions wearing face masks and immediately had their temperatures checked with health officials. As with other recent exhibitions being held around the world, there were no lines persons or ball persons and players helped call their own lines, aided by the chair umpire, and players retrieved their own balls.

On Friday afternoon, play began with 53rd-ranked Andujar facing No. 26 deMinaur followed by World No. 12 Bautista Agut against No. 25 Carreño Busta. In the first match, de Minaur beat Andujar, 6-2, 6-3, in one hour and 24 minutes. De Minaur took advantage of five breaks of Andujar’s serve, including a gut-wrenching 22-point seventh game in the first set, in which de Minaur won on his fourth break-point opportunity. In lieu of a tradition handshake, the two shared a friendly elbow bump at the net after the match concluded.

The second match was won by Bautista Agut over Carreño Busta, 6-4, 6-4, in one hour and 23 minutes. Bautista Agut closed out the victory on his third match-point try and won three of the final four games of the match.

During a ceremony on Thursday at Palau de la Generalitat, Bautista Agut thanked the support of public institutions for organizing the first public sporting event in Spain. “We are very happy to be able to demonstrate that tennis and life in the Valencia community are in match and we are prepared to face everything that comes,” he said.

“I hope this weekend will be very nice for everyone and hopefully we can do more of these events for the community in the future.”

Saturday’s schedule: Andujar versus Bautista Agut, 1:30 p.m. (CEST); Carreño Busta versus de Minaur, 3:30 p.m. (CEST).

Yannick Noah – Thirty-seven years ago …

Mary Pierce – Twenty years ago …

Twenty years ago, Mary Pierce won the 2000 French Open women’s singles title for her second major crown.

Where have you gone Jelena Jankovic?

The last time former World No. 1 Jelena Jankovic played tennis in front of an audience was her last WTA match three years ago. On Friday, it was announced that the 35-year-old Serbia will play mixed doubles with Novak Djokovic in his Adria Tour exhibition on June 12th in Belgrade against Olga Danilovic and Nenad Zimonjic.

The Way Back Machine – Nadal vs. Djokovic, 2013 French Open semifinals 

What they’re writing

Naomi Osaka wrote on Twitter Thursday: “I hate when random people say athletes shouldn’t get involved with politics and just entertain. Firstly, this is a human rights issue. Secondly, what gives you more right to speak than me? By that logic if you work at IKEA you are only allowed to talk about the “GRÖNLID” 🤷🏽‍♀️?”

What they’re sharing on social media

Bianca Andreescu, Canada / Racism has no place in society.

Brett Haber, Tennis Channel presenter / On the possibility of the US Open canceling qualifying …

Darren Cahill, Simona Halep coach and ESPN analyst / “Well done, Coco. …”