Return to FPD results in big season for Auburn signee

Article courtesy of the Macon Telegraph

Two years of being in a home school program gave Michael and Miller Durham plenty of time to work on their tennis game.

The work allowed the fraternal twins to take part in numerous tournaments, climbing into the top 400 in the USTA 18U national rankings. But, along with all of the other normal school activities typical students enjoy, they couldn’t participate in the GHSA tennis tournament series.

They returned to FPD for their senior seasons, and each had one shot at recording some accomplishments in GHSA play before heading off to college.

“The whole team atmosphere got me excited,” Michael said. “It helped me play at a high level. We all did well at competing, we all worked together, and that helped me play my best tennis.”

Miller, 39th on the USTA Georgia 18U list and 351st nationally, had a strong year at No. 2 singles, going undefeated with the Vikings as the team went through the regular season without a team loss before finishing second in the Area 1-A Private tournament and reaching the semifinals in the Class A Private playoffs.

Michael, ranked 21st among 18Us in Georgia and 144th nationally, became FPD’s dominant No. 1 singles player. Also unbeaten as an individual, he trailed just once all season — and just briefly early in the first set, at that.

In the process, FPD beat its rival, 2015 Class A Private champion Stratford, twice. The Vikings also split with another Class A Private semifinalist, Area 1-A Private champion Brookstone.

“One through seven, we felt very good about all seven kids that were in that lineup,” FPD head coach Derek Lashley said. “We knew we could get three points any time we wanted to, and we pretty much did until the last match of the year.”

Michael’s dominance at No. 1 singles earned him The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Boys Tennis Player of the Year honor.

An Auburn signee, Michael liked to finish matches quickly. All of his wins came in straight sets, yielding very few games in the process.

In the Class A Private semifinals, Michael topped Athens Academy’s Alex Boyette 6-0, 6-2. In the quarterfinals, he topped Atlanta International’s William Grattan-Smith 6-2, 6-2.

“The first match of the season was the Camden County tournament, which was the only time he was behind all year, and he was down 2-1,” Lashley said. “I hadn’t seem Michael play competitively yet this season, and before I know it, he’s done won the match.

“The day before (another match), he says, ‘Coach, I think I broke my wrist,’ and we’re (scrambling) because our best player has a broken wrist. We’re thinking, ‘Well, if we can get three points somewhere else,’ but, man, if he don’t beat that kid in 30 minutes, too. What can’t this kid do?”

The Durhams will be in for plenty of new experiences this fall as they enter college.

For one, the twins will split up. As Michael heads to Auburn, Miller will join Kennesaw State’s tennis program.

The changes don’t stop there for Michael. He will be stepping into a college program with plenty of unknowns, as Auburn head coach Eric Shore retired in May following 26 seasons with the Tigers. A replacement has yet to be named, although Shore is still working with the program in the interim.

“I’m really blessed for the opportunity,” Michael said. “Myself and three other recruits will be at Auburn next year, and I think we have a good shot at doing well in the SEC.”

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