—This story first appeared in the July/August 2018 edition of Long Island Tennis Magazine—
At this time two years ago, Cannon Kingsley was just finishing up his freshman year at Northport High School and celebrating his Suffolk County Individual Championships Singles title.
Fast-forward to 2018, and Kingsley is no longer competing against the best players in Suffolk County, but against some of the best junior players from around the world on the ITF and Futures Tour circuit.
“It’s been great, and a much different experience than I have had in the past,” said Kingsley of traveling with the USTA and competing in Europe this spring. “I am growing and maturing a lot by being on the road without my parents, learning and experiencing different cultures. I think I’ve grown both mentally and physically. It’s a grind playing in these tournaments one after the other, but it’s been an amazing experience.”
Kingsley scored one of his biggest wins at the 40th Torneo “Citta Di Santa Croce” in Santa Croce, Italy, winning the Grade 1 title with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 comeback win over Turkey’s Yanki Erel in the final. Kingsley had gone the whole tournament without dropping a set until he lost the first set in the final, but recovered nicely to capture the championship.
“He surprised me in the first set. He came out strong and pushed me around,” recalled Kingsley. “I had to regroup. I took a long time on that changeover and during the break. I started over mentally and began playing my game again like I had in the previous matches of the tournament.”
The win earned Kingsley a wild card into the French Open Juniors, where he got the opportunity to compete on the famous red clay at Roland Garros.
“It was surreal playing in that tournament,” said Kingsley. “I knew if I played well in Italy, I would have a chance at a wild card, but I didn’t expect to actually get one. I was definitely nervous at first.”
He didn’t display any of those nerves in his opening match at Roland Garros, coming through in a tie-breaker before playing a dominant second set to beat Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic, 7-6(4), 6-1. He would play extremely well in his second round match as well, taking the first set and also going up a break in a deciding third set against the ninth-seeded Nicolas Mejia of Colombia. But a lack of experience on that stage would prove to be the difference in the match for Kingsley, as Mejia fought back to secure the win and advance. Despite losing, the defeat did provide Kingsley with some valuable match experience at a Grand Slam.
“He had a little more experience playing in the Grand Slams. I think he played in about four or five of them before that. But I was in it for sure,” he said. “Maybe if I had a little more experience in that environment, I could have taken him.”
Kingsley is now back in the United States and is preparing for the grass court season. He spends his days training at Christopher Morley Tennis in Roslyn, and has been educated online for the last two years which allows him to have a more expansive training regimen. The serve has been a major reason for his increased success over the course of the last few months. He has grown bigger and stronger, which has raised the level of his serve, and it has become a real weapon for him.
Kingsley’s Coach at Christopher Morley, Christian de los Rios, said the two spent a lot of time preparing for the clay in order to get him ready for those tournaments in Europe.
“We focused a lot on his clay court game: More spin, push the player back, then open the court and drive the ball,” said de los Rios. “We also worked on longer rallies. Cannon is naturally good at winning points within the first three shots, so we focused on longer rallies and being able to win those points too; increasing his shot tolerance.”
Kingsley says he still wants to improve his backhand and be more aggressive with that shot, especially as he moves off of the indoor hard courts and outdoors onto clay and grass. But the soon-to-be high school senior is now one of the top juniors in the world and he displayed that after his results in both Italy and France.
He will be taking his talents to Columbus, Ohio where he will become a Buckeye and play as a freshman for Ohio State in the fall of 2019.
“It was an easy decision for me,” Kingsley said of committing to Ohio State, who reached the National Championship earlier this year. “Ty Tucker is the best Coach in college tennis. I was originally looking at schools in the south, but I took my first visit to Ohio State and liked it so much. I took a few more visits to Columbus and made what I think was a pretty easy decision.”
Kingsley has come a long way since becoming a Suffolk County Champion a couple of years ago, and has graduated to punching his international passport at tournaments around the globe. He has one more year to go before heading off to college, and while he is happy with where he is at in terms of his tennis career, he is eager for more.
“I have been looking up to these guys who win these tournaments, and now I am winning, so I know I am right there,” said Kingsley. “I’m one of the top 30 juniors in the world. Anyone can win any given match, and it’s just about how you play in that moment. These results are a huge confidence booster for me for sure, and I will carry that into future tournaments.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.