6 min read
At just 16 years old, Kyle Kang (UTR Rating 13.30*) has already made a name for himself in tennis. A top-ranked junior, he has left a big impression on the UTR Pro Tennis Tour this year by playing eight PTT events and compiling a 25-16 record.
“The format is perfect because you're guaranteed a bunch of high-quality matches, and every match has a linesman reffing the court,” Kyle Kang said. “I don't know what more Universal Tennis could do.”
Matchplay is crucial for the development of young players like Kyle, and his father David Kang is thrilled he’s getting the opportunity so close to home. Seven of Kyle’s PTT appearances have been in Newport Beach, roughly 20 miles from his hometown in Fullerton, Calif.
“He gets a chance to play these events and to get prize money so it motivates him,” David Kang said. “It has been fantastic.”
DISCOVERING UNIVERSAL TENNIS
The Kangs have been attracted to Universal Tennis for the convenience and the benefits of regular match play and consistent prize money (amateur tennis players like Kyle can accept up to $10,000 per year per NCAA rules).
Based on UTR Rating, Kyle is the No. 5-ranked junior in the United States and 35th in the world. He began playing Universal Tennis events after COVID halted all competition last March. Eager to get back on the court, he entered the UTR College National Championships in San Diego in July, reaching the quarterfinals.
“Last year in March when everything was shut down in Los Angeles County; there were no USTA tournaments,” David Kang said. “San Diego was having a UTR Rating-based tournament. That's how we got involved in Universal Tennis.”
When he started playing UTR events last summer, Kang's UTR Rating was below 12.00. Since then his UTR Rating has steadily increased and now he's all the way up to 13.20.
GETTING VALUABLE MATCHPLAY
Kyle thrives on match play and challenging competition. Starting in May of this year, the teen played five straight UTR PTT events. A few days after reaching the quarterfinals of the UTR PTT Newport Beach Hard 8 in early August, he traveled to Kalamazoo, Mich. for the USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships.
As the No. 17 seed, Kyle lost in the round of 32 but bounced back to win the consolation draw (seven straight matches). Thanks to his fifth-place finish, he has received a wild card in the qualifying of the junior US Open.
The multiple match format is very familiar to Kyle since PTT events utilize a round-robin followed by playoffs. An added Universal Tennis bonus is live streaming, so Kyle’s coach Dave Mann can stay involved even when he’s not on the road. The two have been working together since Kyle picked up tennis at the age of five.
“Sometimes his coach likes to watch the matches when he can’t travel and all the matches are live-streamed,” David Kang said. “At least Mann can watch and adjust things during lessons. Then it got even better because now everything is recorded so not only can you watch the live stream, you can also go back and watch it. As a parent and a coach, you can't ask for anything better.”
SIGHTS ON COLLEGE, THEN PRO
A rising high school junior, Kyle has his sights set on the pro tour but will likely make a pit stop in college. He’s interested in the top Californian schools including Stanford, USC, and UCLA, as well as Ivy League universities like Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton.
“It’s up to him but nowadays men’s tennis is very physically and mentally challenging so I think four years of college will prepare him,” David Kang said. “He likes that kind of team environment—tennis can be a lonely sport. I think he'll need college tennis, but I'm sure he wants to be a professional tennis player so we'll see how it goes.”
Kyle already got a taste of the ATP Tour when he played the qualifying of an ATP Challenger in Cleveland, Ohio in March.
“It was a pretty new experience. I had never really been to any of those tournaments or been in that environment,” he said. “I learned a lot from it.”
Next up for the 16-year-old is the UTR PTT Newport Beach Hard 9, which kicks off on Monday. Then he’ll make his junior Grand Slam debut in New York. As for what his goals are far beyond this summer, he’s keeping it simple.
“Just to try to be the best that I can,” he said. “Which will hopefully be pro.”
•UTR Ratings and Rankings as of 9 a.m. EST, Aug. 19, 2021.