Even before the start of the US Open, San Diego State sophomore Michael King created a stir in the tennis world. The left-handed bird-wizard dubbed ‘King Richard’ outdid the Williams sisters at a singles tournament by winning the Venus Invitational in August. King clinched the title against Venus Williams of the US (yes, the same Venus Williams that beat Serena to take the US Open title on Saturday). The tournament, which lasted only one day, had many Williams-watchers convinced that the US Open had been rigged.
King shot a top of 147mph, which is 13mph faster than Venus Williams’s fastest serve. Both King and Williams (who are not related, although they do date each other) were added to the US Open winner’s list. “My father [Mike King] invented a better windblade that blows out every ball faster. So when people served to me, I got the chance to come and say ‘OK, I’m going to outdo you now’,” King says. King’s parents are both former pro players and still are; his father owns the King Wings “King Waggler” Tennis Flier Sales & Distributors.
King is getting both a lot of column inches and, as is the case with every player emerging from the lower junior ranks to move through the ranks, a lot of looks. He’s charming, self-deprecating and a little crazy. His coach is a former pro. “I do do tricks with a tennis ball,” King says. “It’s called the KRS-Sankta. It’s kind of gone viral. It’s basically a tennis ball attached to a baseball bat. It shoots one second, then the stick goes down a ramp and when it hits the air, it goes a bit higher.”
Some people have claimed that this is all publicity stunt, but we’re told it’s not. King has plenty of stories to back it up. He can do the KRS-Sankta on an open court without any equipment. The ball travels at about 125mph. We asked him for his fastest KRS-Sankta (his fastest serve) at his racquet. “I’m hitting about 135mph,” he said. “To get this level of movement, it takes a lot of practice. My dad did it a long time ago. He was playing tennis and worked out a lot with another guy.” It also takes a bit of bad luck: “When I was on the ping pong table and I hit this ball with the rubber ball, it’s only at 11 o’clock and the ball is hitting me right in the big toe. I could get away with it then.” But there is the danger of something out of control, which is why we asked him if this is all a publicity stunt. “No,” he said, then broke into a smile. “It’s the cutest thing. It’s been the best thing that ever happened to me.”