After doing a lot of traveling around the world for most of the year, Evan King is glad to come back to his home state of Illinois this week.
The Chicago native is playing the Edwardsville Futures Tournament and is setting his sights on becoming the first player in the six-year history of the tournament to win the singles championship in back-to-back years. King won the 2015 singles title by beating American Clay Thompson in the championship match.
“It’s pretty close to home,” King said of Edwardsville. “It’s a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Chicago, so it’s nice playing somewhere close to home because when you play tournaments, you travel quite a bit. So it always feels good to play somewhere that’s within driving distance.”
King, who is seeded third in singles, is playing in the Edwardsville Futures for the third time. He finished runner-up in singles in 2011, which was the tournament’s first year.
“Everyone is super nice,” said King, who is also playing doubles with Michael Zhu. “The director, Dave Lipe, has been great. Having an event like this makes you feel at home.”
King has won five Futures tournament titles, including two this year.
On June 12, he won the Hashimoto Sogyo Tokyo Ariake International Open in Japan after beating Sho Katayama of Japan in two sets in the championship match. King was the No. 2 seed.
The next week, King won the Sargent & Collins Men’s Futures Tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., by beating top-seeded Gavin Van Peperzeel in two sets in the title match. King was also the No. 2 seed in that tournament.
King also played in tournaments in California, Canada, Arkansas, Florida and China this year. Last week, he played in a tournament at Binghamton, N.Y., and lost in the round of 32.
King said he enjoys playing in tennis tournaments all around the world.
“It’s great,” the 24-year-old King said. “It’s an experience. I love the fact that this is my job and this is what I try to make money doing. I’d rather be traveling and playing tennis than in a cubicle somewhere doing a 9 to 5 (job).”
King has been playing professionally since 2008. Two years later, he won his first career professional title as an amateur, winning the doubles crown with Jordan Cox at the USTA Futures Tournament at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey.
Along with his five Futures singles titles, King has won 14 Futures doubles championships. His current ranking in singles is 352.
King said playing professionally gave him an opportunity to meet a lot of people.
“Tennis connects so many people from so many different backgrounds,” King said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s different in some places with the language barrier. It’s hard to communicate in some places, but overall, it’s a great experience.”
Playing professional tennis has been a dream for King since he was in high school. He played two years at Walter Payton High School — where he won a IHSA singles championship in 2007 — before moving to Boca Raton, Fla., to switch to online classes with Laurel Springs Prep Academy. When he moved to Florida, he trained with the USTA High Performance.
“Probably when I was 15 or 16, I was born to be a professional and I wanted to make this my career,” King said.
King has been playing tennis since he was 3. His parents, Van and Evelyn, influenced him to try out the sport.
“My dad loved tennis when I was born,” King said. “It was a product of his passion for the sport about the time I was born.”
King also played four years with the University of Michigan. He was 117-34 in singles and 79-48 in doubles and earned International Tennis Association All-American honors three times.
“I loved college tennis,” said King, who graduated from Michigan in 2013. “I love playing in the big time program that had football and everything. It was a lot of fun and I still live in Michigan, so it’s a lot of fun to still be in there.”
King is staying with Dave McNaughton during the Edwardsville Futures for the second straight year. McNaughton has been living in the Edwardsville area for 13 years.
“It was great to have him back,” McNaughton said. “I’m glad he made the trip back. I think he enjoys playing here.”
King won his singles match on Thursday afternoon, topping John McNally 3-6, 6-1, 3-1 (retire) to advance to the quarterfinals where he will battle No. 6 seed Gonzalo Escobar.
He and doubles teammate Michael Zhu also remain alive in the semifinals of the doubles bracket. They face the No. 1 seed of Luke Bambridge and Marc Polmans in the semifinals.