Countdown: Hannah King Returns to Athens
by Colette Lewis
, 26 October 2013
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Hannah King was born in Athens, Georgia, yet playing tennis for the Bulldogs was by no means a certainty for the Alpharetta, Ga. resident. Two major shoulder surgeries kept her from competing most of the past two years, with continual pain testing her resolve. Only her unwavering determination to pursue the sport despite the many setbacks has led the 17-year-old high school senior back to Athens.
Just a few days ago, King verbally committed to play at the University of Georgia
for 2014, but the road to Athens has had several twists and turns along the way.
"Growing up I would go there for Gym Dog meets, and more recently I've been going for tennis, and my dad and I go to football games some," says King, whose father was a law student and mother a graduate student at the University of Georgia when she was born. "It's such a familiar place, and it's close to home. It's just a perfect fit."
King's shoulder problems began in the fall of 2011, with her first operation later that year. She played the Easter Bowl the following spring, but the pain persisted, and when six months of rest did not help, she sought a second opinion. King had another major operation in November of 2012, and just as the rehabilitation was nearly complete this summer, she was hospitalized with viral meningitis.
King, who will be 18 next month, received a wild card into the US Open Junior Championships qualifying this year. In her first tournament of 2013, she lost in the opening round, but the result did not discourage her.
"I'm back playing, 100 percent," says King, who was in the Top 5 in the 2014 Class during her freshman, sophomore, and junior years. "Every now and then, I'll have maybe a little bit of soreness, but I've learned that it's something I'll just have to live with, and not freak out over. Hopefully, I'm getting back to competition soon, and will focus next year, before I go to school, on staying healthy and getting into the best shape that I can."
During the tedious months of rehab, King kept the comebacks of Brian Baker and Maria Sharapova in mind.
"Brian Baker was definitely a huge inspiration. His story is like no other," says King, a 5-foot-9 left-hander. "And Maria Sharapova, I could really relate to being a tall tennis player with shoulder issues. Just seeing her come back so strongly, winning a grand slam, made me think if she can do it, why can't I?"
King also discovered that her absence from the game only whetted her appetite for it.