Oct. 20, 2011
Hall of Fame Profiles: McKay | Shaw | Spencer
STANFORD, Calif.- Alex Kim compiled a 133-25 overall singles record during his four-year Stanford career from 1997-2001. A two-time All-American (2000, 2001), Kim was a member of two NCAA championship teams, as the Cardinal defeated Georgia 4-0 in 1998 and blanked VCU 4-0 in 2000.
Kim became Stanford's 13th NCAA singles champion in 2000, needing only 62 minutes to defeat Kentucky's Carlos Drada 6-1, 6-1 in the title match. A native of Potomac, Md., Kim was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championships after leading Stanford to the win over VCU. Kim finished his junior season ranked as the nation's No. 2 singles player and No. 1 in doubles with partner Geoff Abrams.
Kim reached the third round of the 2002 Australian Open before retiring from the professional tour in 2004.
Recently, www.gostanford.com caught up with Kim to get his thoughts on his selection to Stanford's Athletic Hall of Fame, his favorite memories from on The Farm and much more.
Editor's Note: The rich and proud tradition of Stanford Athletics will come alive on Friday, Nov. 11, as Stanford formally inducts nine new members into the University's Athletic Hall of Fame. The list of inductees includes: Don Griffin (men's basketball), Mhairi McKay (women's golf), Jay Mortenson (men's swimming), Alex Kim (men's tennis), Don Shaw (volleyball), Stan Spencer (baseball), Trisha Stevens (women's basketball), Kerri Walsh (women's volleyball) and Bob Whitfield (football).
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Congratulations on your selection to Stanford's Athletic Hall of Fame.
It's a tremendous honor to be recognized among a long history of some of the best athletes in the world. There's not much more I can say. It's just a true honor.
What was it like to compete as a student-athlete in the most storied men's tennis program in NCAA history?
Past teams certainly set an extremely high standard for our program. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to meet those standards each year. As a team, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to win an NCAA title every year. I am proud that I was able to help add just a little bit to the tennis program's history.
You were a member of two NCAA championship teams (1998, 2000). Those were two different teams, successful in their own ways. Talk a little bit about what made each team special, particularly that team in 1998.
The 1998 team was all about the "Big 4", which included Paul Goldstein, Ryan Wolters, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan. Having four No. 1 guys that had enjoyed so much success- winning success- really set a high standard for the team. They each were extremely motivated, competitive, hated to lose and were always trying to get better. Yet, ultimately, everyone put the team first. It was a lethal combination which led to the season that we had that year.
While the 1998 team had four No. 1 guys, the 2000 team had three, which is still pretty darn good as well. We didn't have quite the same depth as the 1998 team, but it was the same formula of success: highly-motivated, competitive team players. By the end of the season, we were pumping on all cylinders. I bet we would have given the 1998 team a run for its money!
Reflecting back on your junior season, what was it like winning the 2000 NCAA Singles Championship? You had to defeat a teammate (K.J. Hippensteel in the semifinals) in a tough three-setter along the way before cruising in the final.
Winning the NCAA singles title was very special, particularly right after winning the team event. I was playing my best tennis of the year, and had a ton of confidence. Actually, the only players I was really concerned about facing were my teammates Geoff Abrams and K.J. Hippensteel, who were also playing very well. Sure enough, I played K.J. in the semis and we had a good battle. I knew it would be my toughest test, and it was.
On that same note, what did you think of Bradley Klahn capturing the NCAA singles title in 2010?
I was overseas in Korea at that time, but eventually I heard the news of his win. I was happy for him and for the program.
Describe what it was like playing your home matches in arguably the finest facility in the country, Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
Playing at home was awesome. We always had great support from students and non-students alike. It didn't get much better than the UCLA-USC weekend. Our team going undefeated at home in my four years is one of the records I am most proud of. A lot of that was thanks to the loyal and raucous support of our fans.
Stanford reached the quarterfinal round of last year's NCAA Championships, nearly knocking off No. 1 Virginia in a 4-3 loss. It was an electric atmosphere at Taube Family Tennis Stadium, with the crowd dominated mostly by students. Do you agree that tennis is one of those collegiate sports that lend itself to raucous student support and interaction?
I thoroughly enjoyed the college tennis atmosphere. The louder it was, the more enjoyable it was. There was some trash-talking from the crowds, which also made things interesting. I actually preferred to play in front of hostile crowds. It's always more fun when you play in front of people who care.
You were a member of the last men's tennis team to win an NCAA title at Stanford. Talk about just how difficult it is for a team to win a championship.
It's tough, obviously, and I can only speak based on my four-year experience. We didn't win my sophomore and senior years. My sophomore season, we lacked depth and talent. We were a good team, just not a great one. I was a main reason for that lack of depth, and it really ticked me off. During my senior season, we lost because I got really sick in our NCAA first round match and I couldn't play the rest of the tournament. It was a real shame because we would have won it. But injuries are another factor that makes winning so hard.
You went from playing at the No. 5 and 6 spots on an NCAA Championship team (1998) to leading the team at No. 1 to an NCAA Championship in 2000. That's not easy to do.
I am very proud of this achievement. After a very disappointing sophomore season, I felt like my game hit rock bottom. I hated playing at such a mediocre level. I was particularly peeved with my forehand. That's when Coach Whit (current head coach John Whitlinger, who was the assistant coach at the time) suggested a grip change to work on during the summer season. That summer, I also had the opportunity to work out extensively with Paul Goldstein, who was off to a fast start in his pro tennis career. That's when something clicked, and I started to hit my forehand way better. That was the missing piece in my game and the main reason I was able to get to No. 1.
Talk about your relationship with Dick Gould, both during your college years and after college? How much of a role did he play in your success?
First of all, Coach Gould recruited me to the best university in the world, which is a huge reason for any "success" I have had so far. Coach Gould and I had a great coach-player relationship. He coached with a "take it to your opponent" philosophy that resonated with me. He knew when we needed to work but also knew we were college kids and couldn't be serious all the time. Being around someone that successful was a great experience for me.
You reached the third round of the 2002 Australian Open, defeating then-world No. 4 Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Talk about that moment.
I was playing so good that week. It was similar to the feeling I had at the 2000 NCAA Championships. I had a ton of confidence. Plus, the Rebound Ace surface in Melbourne really suited my game. Even though Kafelnikov was the No. 4 seed, I was very confident going into that match. Not only because I was playing well, but I felt that his game matched up well to mine. There were a couple tight spots during the match, but I was pretty much in control the entire match. That match put me on the map professionally, and was a great springboard for the rest of my career.
Do you still keep in contact with your college teammates?
Since I left the Bay Area and the tennis scene, communication with teammates has been limited. I exchange emails with Scotty Scott and Paul Goldstein on occasion. In recent years, I have kept in closest contact with Aleem Choudhry. Aleem was one of my mentors as I transitioned from tennis to finance. We both work in similar industries, so that makes it easier. That being said, I still feel a close bond to all my former teammates. We all shared a lot of great (and not so great) memories. I know that I can pick up the phone anytime to talk to anyone about anything and vice versa.
Do you have a favorite Stanford memory unrelated to athletics?
So many great memories, but I would say my entire freshman year experience stands out. I lived in a really fun dorm (Larkin), with a great group of people.
How have your experiences as a student-athlete helped you transition into your professional career?
The relationships I made while on the team helped me immensely transition from pro tennis to finance. For example, thanks to my former teammate Misha Palecek's help, I was able to land my first finance job. Misha introduced me to Chris Ooten (former Stanford soccer player), who was (and still is) a senior level investment banker in New York. Even though I had no prior work experience (I had never worked an office job before), Chris had faith that as a Stanford student-athlete, I could handle the rigors of investment banking.
Catch us up on your career path.
Since ending my career in 2004, it's been a bit of a whirlwind for me. I worked in investment banking for a couple years then joined Allied Capital, a DC-based private equity firm for almost four years before the firm was acquired in 2010. At that point, I decided to take some time off, so I spent almost a year in South Korea. I came back this spring and recently joined California Bank & Trust in Pasadena, CA. I am a Vice President in the bank's commercial lending division and responsible for sourcing and underwriting financings to small/middle market businesses.