With 37 former college players in the 2024 Australian Open, college tennis is providing once again to be a pathway to the pros. Reese Brantmeier (UTR Rating 11.27) is looking to be the next success story.
The 19-year-old is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina with national titles under her belt and her eye on a pro career.
“I was really on the fence in juniors deciding if I was even going to come to college at all, so that was a really big decision,” Brantmeier told UTR Sports. “But after my first year, I felt really comfortable coming back for another year. I absolutely loved the coaches. I love the team. I got incredible training, incredible match play — it was a pretty easy decision.”
Brantmeier Thrives at UNC
In her freshman year, the Whitewater, Wisconsin, native helped the Tar Heels win the program’s first-ever tennis NCAA team title. The teen spent most of the season at No. 1 and No. 2 in the lineup, finishing the year inside of the Top 10 in the college rankings.
“There was a ton of buildup beforehand because I think we'd been the No. 1 seed for the past few years and not won it,” Brantmeier said. “Everyone was so excited and especially going into the final no one thought we were going to lose it. We worked so hard all season and just had a really good feeling.”
Juggling Singles and Doubles
She’d also reach the final of the 2023 NCAA doubles tournament, alongside Elizabeth Scotty.
“I think doubles is naturally a second thought in juniors, but I always thought it was so much fun and there's not as much pressure,” Brantmeier said. “So I was just really there to enjoy it in juniors. But in college tennis, doubles is such a significant part of the matches so I have started taking it a little bit more seriously.”
Brantmeier has already turned things up a notch in her second college season at North Carolina by winning the singles and doubles (with Scotty) titles at the ITA National Fall Championships in November.
“I genuinely was not thinking about results so much, so I didn't look at the draw once,” Brantmeier said. “I was just there to get great matches because it's the highest level of college tennis. I was just excited to get really competitive match play. I feel like that really helped me just by putting my head down and almost treating it like a practice match, and obviously, it worked out.”
Developing for a Pro Career
As much as she can, Brantmeier has mixed professional tournaments into her junior and college schedule. She has one singles and two doubles ITF titles under her belt.
“I'm going to try to play as many pro tournaments as I can in the summer,” she said.
Brantmeier has already had a taste of the Grand Slam level. In 2022, she and Clervie Ngounoue won the USTA Girls 18s National Championship to earn a wild card into that summer’s US Open. They’d win their first round.
Reese Brantmeier is back in action today in round ✌️ of women's doubles at the @usopen.— Carolina Women's Tennis 🐏🎾 (@UNC_wtennis) September 2, 2022
Brantmeier and partner Clervie Ngounoue are the third match on court 12! 🇺🇸#GoHeels 🐏🎾 pic.twitter.com/JADVGqEMu0
“That was unbelievable,” she said. “Winning nationals is great, but it's such a different level than the US Open. You're there for the experience. You don't really have any expectations. So we definitely didn't come in expecting that.”
Capitalizing on UTR Pro Tennis Tour
The year prior, Brantmeier nearly qualified for the US Open singles main draw, losing in the third round. But Brantmeier’s pro career actually started earlier. In 2021, the teenager competed on the UTR Pro Tennis Tour (PTT) and reached the final of the $25K in Naples, losing to Vicky Duval.
“I absolutely loved that tournament,” Brantmeier said. “I just wanted matchplay so badly and it was ideal to be able to get all the round-robin matches and be guaranteed a lot of competition. That one especially during COVID was so strong. It was like a very high-level event and it was so convenient.”
The UTR Pro Tennis Tour, or PTT, was created by UTR Sports (formerly Universal Tennis) in 2021. Each $25,000 PTT event guarantees aspiring professional players prize money and multiple matches. Since 2023, matches have been aired live on Amazon Prime Video.
More PTT’s could be on Brantmeier's horizon.
“I'm totally open to trying to find time to play a PTT because like I said, it was great — especially if I'm starting off the summer trying to get matches,” she said. “I think it’s awesome.”
Relying on UTR to Find Level-based Play
While she’s busy developing her game and taking her career to new heights, Brantmeier isn’t forgetting where she came from. Wisconsin isn’t a tennis hotbed, but Brantmeier and her family did the best they could for her as soon as she realized she wanted to pursue the sport.
“I started playing when I was eight. I playing nationals at like 11 or 12 and taking it really seriously at that point by training at the USTA in Florida,” Brantmeier said. “I was playing ITFs by the time I was 14. That's when I was like, ‘Wow, this is something I really want to do on a global stage.’”
UTR Sports has helped her along the way. She used the platform to find players near her level in Whitewater so she could have quality hitting partners and practice matches.
“I used it a lot in juniors. In Wisconsin, it was really hard to find hits so it was really nice to be able to have something that was universal,” she said. “I was hitting with 40-year-old guys, college girls, or literally anyone that would agree to hit with me when I was younger. It was nice to be able to tell we're at the same level.”
The UTR Rating a valuable tool for her development, and she also used it while coaching at summer camps at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where the players needed to be sorted into groups by level.
“That’s how I grew up,” she said. “I found players with a UTR Rating similar to me that I would never have found.”
Growing Tennis in Wisconsin
Despite her tennis taking her all over the country and world, Brantmeier remains closely tied to her hometown. Currently, she’s involved in a court resurfacing project for the two hard courts at her former elementary school. Her parents would drive her more than an hour to practice elsewhere, while most local youths don’t have that option.
“I would see these courts that are demolished. No one can use them, but they just sit there,” Brantmeier. “I always thought if I get a chance to be able to resurface these, I want so badly to be able to introduce kids to tennis because it's not an option where I'm from.”
The Reece Brantmeier Project is looking to raise $200,000 to resurface the Whitewater courts. Brantmeier is working hard on the project alongside her mom, realizing along the way how expensive court resurfacing can be. They’re hoping the courts will be ready later this year and will become a host site for junior programming, tournaments, and summer camps like the ones she’s taken part in.
Clearly, Brantmeier’s plate is very full as the Tar Heels prep for the ITA National Indoor Championship in February. The team is already 6-0 and ranked No. 1 in the college and UTR Power 6 rankings.
“We had nine out of the 10 players come back and we gained an awesome freshman so it's a very similar team to last year,” Brantmeier said. “So everyone is just super excited. We all really enjoy getting to spend all the time together.”