Trevor Gotkowski, a senior member of the Cartersville High boys tennis team, was playing in the prestigious USTA Southern Closed Doubles Championships in Rome but he and his partner Elliott Orkin were down 4-0 in their tie-breaker Sunday.
“We had lost the first set [3-6], came back in the second [7-6] but were down in the tie-breaker,” Gotkowski recalled. “That’s when Elliott said it was going to be a long tie-breaker. That inspired me, and I started playing a lot better.”
The two, who were partnering for the first time even though they have practiced together about three years and are friends, ended up winning the match 10-8, their victory earning them the doubles title from among some of the top players in the South.
They are among the best tennis players in the South, too, with Orkin ranked No. 2 and Gotkowski nestled in at the No. 33 spot but is expected to move up in those rankings with the weekend victory. The two were seeded No. 1 in the tournament in the 18 and under category.
They defeated Zack and Sam Kennedy, who are from Atlanta.
The doubles team won three of its matches Saturday defeating Morris/Wendel 6-0, 7-2; Harrell/Kay, 6-1, 7-5; Bouchillon/Eubanks, 6-2, 5-7, 10-3. On Sunday they defeated Drake/Duncan, 6-2, 7-6., before claiming the title against Kennedy/Kennedy.
Gotkowski said their victories were aided Saturday by friends who drove over.
“That helped us, having their support.”
He said Sunday, the championship match was difficult, but he and his partner kept coming back in the face of adversity.
“Sunday in our final match, we lost the first set and were down in the second and we just kept fighting because we knew we had a chance of winning,” he said. “We won the second set and were behind in the tiebreaker when rain set in.”
They came back after the break to earn the title.
The Cartersville resident said the victory is his first at the tournament, hosted in Rome annually.
“It means a lot to me because of the level of competition,” he said. “It says Elliott and I are one of the best doubles teams in the South.”
Gotkowski said the two have known each other for some time but had never played as partners.
“We have trained at the Stephen Diaz Tennis Academy in Marietta four years,” he said. “We’ve been friends for a while and I just asked if he’d like to play in the tournament.”
Orkin is from Marietta.
“Basically, the tournament has the top players in the South playing doubles together,” he said. “It’s the only one of its kind because it’s only doubles with no singles.”
He said the two had spent recent practices preparing for the tournament.
“He’s so good,” Gotkowski said. “We practiced all last week and went over doubles strategy.”
Gotkowski next plays Sept. 1 in Raleigh, N.C., in a national regional event. He will compete in singles and doubles play.