Ex-UF tennis player finds balance on, off court
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 11:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 11:38 p.m.
Former Florida tennis standout Alexis King has found balance between motherhood and the sport she loves.
It hasn't always been easy. King, who will compete in this week's Gainesville Tennis Classic at the Jonesville Tennis Center, took two year-long layoffs from tennis for the birth of her two children. She was ranked 345th in the world in 2009 before finding out she was pregnant with her second child, three-year-old Maniah King.
“Right now, I'm just trying to get my ranking to back where it was before I got pregnant,” King said. “I was up last year in the low 400s and then gradually moved back. Right now, I'm in the middle 500s, so it's been good but it's been constant grind, constant struggle to get back down where I was at.”
King and Florida freshman Brianna Morgan are among 32 who will compete in the women's singles draw, which begins today. The USTA Pro Circuit event with a $10,000 purse will run through Sunday at the Jonesville Tennis Center's clay courts.
King also is playing doubles for the first time since 2008.
“We'll see how that goes,” King said. “This is probably the last clay court tournament I'll play on this year because the next two are on hard (surfaces). I just kind of want to finish the year off strong and get ready for 2013.”
Florida fans remember King as Alexis Gordon, a three-time All-American who helped lead the Gators to a women's tennis national title in 2003. In 2005, King took a year off from school for the birth of her first child, a daughter named Imani.
“It put things in perspective,” King said. “At the same token, too, that was the first time I had taken off so long from playing … I kind of think I took it for granted, thinking tennis would always be there. It kind of drove me more.”
In 2006, King returned to UF to complete her tennis career and earn her degree in recreation tourism and sports management. Her pro career began in 2008, the same year she married her coach, Michael King.
King, 29, has won three International Tennis Federation singles titles at events in Charlottesville, Va. (2008, $50,000 purse), Hilton Head S.C. (2010, $10,000 purse) and Sumter, S.C., (2011, $10,000 purse). She has qualified for one Women's Tennis Association Event, the 2008 Orinda Open, where she lost in the first round to New Zealander Marina Erakovic. Her career pro earnings are more than $25,000 and her won-loss record is 63-37.
Tennis is a family affair. King's husband and two children travel to most of her pro events. King lives in Gainesville and teaches lessons when she is not playing tennis professionally.
“My husband helps out a lot,” King said. “When we go to tournaments, we take them with us. He warms me up. They are old enough now where they can kind of wander around and they know a lot of the players. Everybody is pretty friendly. But it's a lot of time management knowing that OK, I've got two hours of practice, OK, now I'm going to go teach two lessons.
“It's a little more of a tighter schedule, but I've been used to it for a while, so it's good.”