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Kevin King lifts his first ATP Challenger Tour trophy, prevailing in Cary.

Challenger Q&A: King Reacts To Stunning Win In Cary

Kevin King sits down with USTA Pro Circuit broadcaster Mike Cation after claiming his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Cary

One year ago, Kevin King was on the sidelines recovering from hip surgery. On Sunday, he became an ATP Challenger Tour champion.

King stormed past Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-1 to earn his maiden title at the Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, North Carolina. The 26-year-old entered the week outside the Top 400 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and has soared 181 spots to a career-high No. 253 with the victory.

The American had never reached a Challenger final coming into Cary, but he would score impressive wins over top seed Ernesto Escobedo, Noah Rubin and Norrie to clinch the crown.

King, a native of Peachtree City, Georgia, starred for Georgia Tech University before turning pro in 2012. He graduated with a degree mechanical engineering.

This was your first semi-final in two and a half years. Then your first final. It looked like you came out and were ready to go aggressively from the start. Was that the gameplan?
I definitely wanted to come out and be aggressive and dictate. I know he's a great player and when he starts getting control of points, he's very tough to beat. I was not going to let that happen.

For a lot of people playing in their first Challenger final, nerves show up. You had a great approach of just going after some shots really early.
When you start swinging out a little bit, you feel more free. I found more of a rhythm from the start of the match.

You won a Futures last week in Canada and came down here to take a Challenger title. It's rare to have that progression in back-to-back weeks. What's been working for you?
I've been focusing on one match at a time. In Toronto last week I was able to work on a few things. I was able to get some good momentum with my game and translated that into this week. I pulled out a few tough matches and that helped me gain some confidence to go out and play well today.

Talk about your journey over the past couple of years. Being out for almost the entirety of 2016, do you have a better appreciation of the game and also of your game and what you're able to do well?
Absolutely. Being out for a year makes you realize how special it is to be able to do what you love and play tennis at the highest level. It was good for me in that sense. I was able to do some coaching in the year I was out, with the Georgia Tech men's team. Coaching tennis can give you a better understanding of the game in trying to get different people to improve in different areas. That helped me in taking the information I learned into this year.

In terms of the technical aspect, what has been the biggest difference for you?
I would say I was focusing on the fundamentals in all areas of my game. Going back to those basics and details really helped me progress at a faster rate when I was coming back. Focusing on those small details were huge in my game.

It also seems like there's more intent now, in terms of your gameplan heading into a match. Is that part of the coaching factoring in there? That's something you definitely have improved on in the past couple of years.
Yeah, absolutely. When I first started out, right out of college, I didn't have an identity of how I wanted to be playing. I had different options in my game and I didn't stick to one. Having the year off allowed me to take a look at my game and what I want to be doing out there. I was able to really find a game plan and stick to that and get better each week.

It's pretty rare that you have a tournament director, Sean Ferreira, that's also serving as the coach for one of the players. Your girlfriend is here as well. You said that Cary is almost like a second home. It had to be pretty emotional there to get that trophy in front of some people you love very much.
It was very special. There are so many people here that care about me and support me. To be able to have them here and cheering for me was very special.

You are now at No. 253 [in the Emirates ATP Rankings]. The Australian Open qualies cut last year was 249. What would that mean to you, at this point of your career?
That's definitely one of the long-term goals in this comeback, to make it to one of the Grand Slams. I'm getting closer to that goal. Still more concerned with taking care of my game and trying to get better. We'll let those goals take care of themselves. Looking forward to the rest of the year.

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