A Q&A With MSU Tennis Player George Coupland

Mississippi State men's junior tennis player George Coupland talks one-on-one with Gene's Page about being selected to the All-SEC team as well as talking about the MSU tennis team.

Coupland has split time with Artem Ilyushin at the #1 and #2 singles positions for MSU this spring and teamed to form one of the nation's top doubles teams as well. In doubles, the duo went 12-4 together this year, including a perfect 5-0 mark in the SEC. Coupland, currently ranked 59th nationally in singles, has defeated three ranked singles foes this year, two in the top 40 and one in the top 5.

Knowing that the SEC is the top tennis conference in the nation, what does it mean to you knowing you were selected to the All-SEC Team?
"It is a huge honor, a huge honor. It shows the kind of standard I'm at within the SEC. And I can only take confidence in that."

You still have one more year at State. What are some ways you want to continue to improve your overall game?
"The coaches, me and this whole team are continuously working to toward getting better all the time. Even the professionals are always working to get better and better. There is always something to work on. And in my case there is a lot to work on (laugh). But that's a good thing because when you have a lot to work on that's a promising thing."

Why the serve?
"It such a huge part of the game. If you have the serve as a weapon your game, as a whole, comes into play so easily because you gain a lot of free points in your service game. If you are holding your serve easily that puts pressure on the opponent. There are so many factors that come into it if you have such a good serve. So we are always working on that."

One thing I have noticed about the Mississippi State when watching you play is how well the entire team seems to return serves. Is that a key to why this team is so good?

Isn't that a hard part of the game, being able to return serves so well, especially if the opponent has a really hard serve?
"Yeah, of course. Our returns are a major weapon against players with say weaker serves. That will put a lot more pressure on them. But if the opponent has a serve that is a major weapon, then it becomes a lot harder. Then our ability to return it becomes less of a weapon for us. That's why we need to continue to work on our own serves personally. In tennis it's all about what you can control and what you can't control. You can't control how easy or how hard your returns are going to be. With your serve, it's entirely in your control as to how you hit it and how good it can be."

When you look at all the honors this team won this year, you realize everyone of the players in the lineup are coming back. How exciting is that?
"It is very exciting, very promising for us. I think we still have a lot left in the NCAAs. I think we can definitely damage there. I think we will be disappointed if we don't make the sweet 16 or go even further. I think we are capable of beating every single team out there.

"Then next year, we will continue working on the same things we are working on and we will build on that next year and become an even better team."

The fans have really come out and supported this team this year. How important is that to the team?
"It means a massive amount to us. All of the guys on this team are kind of showmen. They love the crowd. We just feed off the crowd. Once the crowd gets going the momentum of the match just swings in our favor. That was an advantage of home games."

When you first got to college was having so many fans at matches something new to you?
"There were huge team events every now and then back in the UK where you might get a maximum of 200 people, maybe once a year. Here, you get more than 200 people every home match. You aren't used to it when you first get here but after the first year it's very easy to get used to because you quite like it."

MSU head tennis coach Per Nilsson talks about junior George Coupland:

George Coupland 6-6 Jr. 1L Hatfield, England - "George has been at the top of the lineup for most of his career. And I think this year he finally starting believing he belonged there. He beat the No. 4 guy in the country when we played Tennessee. He is ranked 59th in the country right now and doing well. And he's not really playing at the top of his game yet, so we are hoping during the next two weeks he will turn that around and be ready for the NCAA (postseason)."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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