Tennis Phenom Kayla Day Goes Pro
Santa Barbara Teenage Superstar Will Play Australian Open This Month
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Kayla Day truly went through a leap year in 2016. Santa Barbara’s teenage tennis phenom vaulted from one of many to number one and from amateur girl to professional woman.
Her progression was evident in the junior girls’ singles at three major tournaments. Day reached the round of 16 at the French Open, advanced to the semifinals at Wimbledon, and won the championship at the U.S. Open. Her sixth and final match in Flushing Meadows, New York, was a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia. With that triumph, Day secured the end-of-the-year No. 1 girls’ world ranking by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
Day turned 17 on September 28 and could continue to compete for junior championships in 2017. One of the goals she proclaimed several years ago was, in fact, to win the Wimbledon girls’ title at 17. But at a gathering last week at the Santa Barbara Tennis Club, she announced her decision to leap into the WTA(Women’s Tennis Association) Tour as a professional.
“It was a tough decision,” Day said. “It was hard to pass up great colleges” — schooled by her parents and a tutor, she is a semester away from completing her high school requirements — “but tennis is something I want to wake up and do every day.”
Tennis Club pro Larry Mousouris, who guided Day through her youth career, said she’s paid her dues. “She embraces the difficult,” he said. “So many times, in so many matches, things get difficult.” Day frequently left the comforts of home, he added, to hone her game with stops from China to Eastern Europe. “She made the choice to leave paradise and go to hell and back.”
Day got a taste of competition with the pros in several minor WTA tournaments last year, and by virtue of winning the USTAGirls 18 national championship, she received a wild-card entry into the main draw of the U.S. Open. She won her first-round match before losing to No. 8–seeded Madison Keys, 6-1, 6-1. After that lesson, she mowed down the girls.