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Georgia Tech Men's Tennis head coach Kenny Thorne sat down with Mike Stamus to discuss the upcoming ITA Kickoff Weekend for RamblinWreck.com
Georgia Tech sophomore Christopher Eubanks at the 2015 BB&T Atlanta Open
Kenny Thorne recorded one of the most successful tennis careers by a player from the state of Georgia, winning seven pro titles and defeating four of the world's top-10 players in the 1990's. Some of Thorne's notable victories include wins over Richard Krajicek, Wayne Ferreira, Mark Philippoussis and Todd Martin. As a pro, he achieved his highest singles ranking of No. 121 and a doubles ranking of No. 67. Thorne brings his love of tennis and impressive professional playing experience to his alma mater, Georgia Tech.
Charged with building the Georgia Tech tennis program back to the level it was when he was a player, Thorne was named to the newly-created position of Director of Tennis on June 30, 1998, becoming the ninth head coach in Tech men's tennis history.
Thorne took over the reins of the Tech program after spending one season as the team's assistant coach and wasted little time in taking steps toward his ultimate goal of turning the Yellow Jackets into a perennial contender.
The Yellow Jackets have reached the NCAA Championship 10 times in his 16 years at the helm, and are on the verge of heading back to the NCAAs for the second straight year after earning a bid to the regionals in 2015.
After a two-year absence, the 2010 and 2011 teams reached the second and third rounds of the tournament, respectively, finished fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference (15-7 record), and posted a combined 39-14 dual match record.
Over the last three years, Thorne has developed the best doubles player in Tech history, Juan Spir, who advanced to the NCAA Doubles Championship semifinals in 2012 and quarterfinals in 2013 with different partners. Spir and Kevin King, Spir's doubles partner for 75 of his Tech-record 103 victories, have played in the NCAA Singles Championship as well, and are now up-and-coming players in the professional ranks.
Under Thorne's guidance, Tech had at least one ITA All-American every year from 2009-13, and has had at least one All-Atlantic Coast Conference honoree each year since 2008.
Tech's 2011 team finished the year ranked 13th in the nation and reached the round of 16 at the NCAA Championship, both high-water marks for Tech tennis under Thorne. Tech's 21 wins in 2011 were the most for the Jackets under Thorne and the second most in the history of the program.
As a result, the Tech alum was named the ITA National Coach of the Year, becoming only the fourth Georgia Tech head coach ever to receive such an honor.
Thorne built those Tech squads around four-time All-ACC honoree Guillermo Gomez, who was named the ACC Player of the Year in 2011 and earned ITA All-American honors three times, and broke Thorne's record for career singles victories. He also recruited another pair of ITA All-Americans in Kevin King and Juan Spir, who formed one of the top 10 doubles teams nationally and developed into top-of-the-lineup players in singles, both earning NCAA bids in 2012.
The 2007 squad overcame some major adversity to earn its eighth NCAA Tournament bid in nine seasons. Thorne's team finished the season with 4-7 conference record including upsetting then No. 10 Florida State and No. 20 Clemson in back-to-back matches during the season. He also guided David North to his first NCAA Singles Championships, becoming the 44th individual in school history to play in the tournament.
In 2006, the Georgia Tech men's tennis team once again earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament under Thorne and reached the second round for third time. The team finished over .500 for the sixth consecutive season with a 12-10 record. In 2005, Tech had a doubles team compete in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994 and also had an individual compete in the NCAA Singles Championship. Tech would also receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, where it fell to Vanderbilt in the first round by a score of 4-3. Jose Muguruza advanced to the Round of 32 while the doubles team of North and Rajevac, who earned an at-large bid into the tournament, advanced to the quarterfinals and earned All-American honors. North and Rajevac become the fourth players that Thorne has coached to earn All-American accolades.
During the 2004 season, Tech reached the NCAA Tournament and had an individual compete in the NCAA Singles Championship. After opening the dual-match season with a 5-0 record, the Yellow Jackets fell to three ranked opponents, but then regrouped to win five consecutive matches, including wins against Minnesota and Oregon and conference foes Wake Forest and Clemson. After dropping tough matches to Virginia and Georgia, Tech finished out the regular season winning five of six matches, including a 5-2 win over Florida State and a 4-3 come from behind match at South Carolina.
During the 2003 campaign, Georgia Tech earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament and climbed into the 14th spot in the national rankings midway through the year. The Jackets also boasted their first All-America honorees since 1988, as the doubles team of Roger Anderson and Scott Schnugg earned the honor after finishing the year as the country's 10th-ranked tandem. The duo also earned All-ACC honors after winning the league's Flight One Doubles title. Tech finished with a 12-10 record and notched seven wins over ranked opponents, including a 4-2 victory over ninth-ranked Texas on February 16.
In 2002, Tech defeated eight ranked teams and reached the finals of the ACC Championship, en route to a 15-11 dual-match record, while also reaching the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years under Thorne. In the ACC Tournament, the Jackets upset top-seeded and 14th-ranked Duke in the semifinals by a 4-0 score and ended the Blue Devils four-year reign as ACC Champions. On an individual level, Roger Anderson earned All-ACC honors for the second time and earned his first berth in the NCAA Individual Championship, becoming the first Tech player to do so since 1999.
During the 2000-01 season, Thorne made great strides toward achieving his goal. When the Yellow Jackets climbed to No. 20 in the national rankings on April 11, they claimed their highest ranking since 1988, when Thorne was an All-American and team captain.
Thorne led the 2001 Yellow Jackets to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Roger Anderson earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors and three Tech players earned ACC Flight championships in singles or doubles.
Under Thorne's guidance in 2000, Anderson became the first Tech player to earn ACC Rookie of the Year honors after leading the Yellow Jackets with a 24-8 singles record, including a 15-5 mark in dual matches.
In his first year as head coach in 1999, Thorne earned ACC Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Yellow Jackets to a second-place tie in the regular-season conference standings, a runner-up finish at the ACC Tournament, an NCAA Regional berth and a final national ranking of 32 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).
Senior Benjamin Cassaigne was named the ACC Player of the Year, earned all-conference honors and captured the ACC Flight Championship at No. 1 singles under Thorne's guidance. Fellow senior Matt Cozad was also named all-ACC and won the ACC Flight Championship at No. 2 singles. Cozad and sophomore Sergio Aguirre also won the ACC Flight title at No. 3 doubles.
With Tech's 1999 NCAA Regional berth, Thorne became the first person in ACC history and just the second nationally, joining LSU's Jeff Brown, to lead the same school to post-season competition as a player, assistant coach and head coach since the current NCAA team dual-match format was instituted in 1977. (Prior to 1977, team finishes were determined by an accumulation of points based on individual play.) Thorne helped Tech to NCAA play as a senior in 1988, as an assistant coach in 1998 and as head coach in 1999.
Thorne earned an Industrial Engineering degree from Tech in 1989 and during his four seasons as a player from 1985-88, the Jackets posted a 70-38 dual-match record and a 20-7 ACC mark, including wins over nationally-ranked foes such as Georgia and Clemson in 1988, his final season. Tech climbed as high as 10th in the ITA national rankings during Thorne's senior season before the Jackets ended the year ranked 12th nationally.
He qualified for the NCAA singles tournament in 1986 and 1988 and advanced to the second round on both occasions. Thorne also competed in the 1988 NCAA doubles tourney with partner Bryan Shelton. After turning professional in 1989, Thorne spent eight years on the tour, achieving his highest singles ranking of 121 and doubles ranking of 67 in the world. He was also a six-time participant at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, French Open and Australian Open.
Thorne's best career wins were over 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, ATP No. 11 Wayne Ferreira, Australia's Mark Philippoussis and Todd Martin of the United States. He posted two career ATP doubles titles, one career Challenger singles title and four career Challenger doubles titles.
An All-American in 1988, Thorne finished his Georgia Tech playing career as a four-time All-ACC honoree and the career leader in singles victories with 112. He was also a two-time captain and an Academic All-ACC honoree. Thorne was inducted into the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.
Thorne married former Yellow Jacket cross country standout and Tech Hall of Fame inductee, Bridget Koster, in 1990. The couple has two daughters, Rachel and Kenedy, and two sons, Zachary and Daniel.