Orange Bowl Spotlight:
Arthur Kapetanakis | December 7, 2018
After reaching the Round of 16 at the junior US Open, in addition to three combined wins at the junior French Open and Wimbledon, Cannon Kingsley competed in five professional ITF events this fall, as he begins to test his game at the next level.
The 17-year-old Ohio State commit returned to the junior circuit for the Orange Bowl, in a bid to maintain his lofty junior ranking – he is currently No. 34 in the world, with a career high of No. 32 – and guarantee himself entry into the junior Grand Slams in 2019. The majors will likely be the extent of Kingsley’s junior schedule in 2019, as he prioritizes ITF Futures events.
The big-serving phenom entered 2018 on the back of an ITF Grade 4 junior title in Atlanta, his first ITF-level trophy, and a second-round qualifying loss at the 2017 Orange Bowl. ADVERTISEMENT He fully expected to return to the Orange Bowl this year, but not as the No. 8 seed.
In his “best year by far” on the court, Kingsley has claimed two more ITF titles, including the Grade 1 crown in Santa Croce, Italy, in May, reached the Easter Bowl semifinals and advanced to the quarters at the International Spring Championships (where he lost to eventual champion and current world No. 4 Brandon Nakashima).
“I can’t really put into words how much 2018 has meant to me,” he reflected.
It was a year he began with recovery from a stress fracture in his foot and visits to 11 colleges ahead of his upcoming high school graduation. Before the end of February, and before his rise to the Top 40 of the ITF junior ranks, he signed with Ohio State.
Going to college was an easy decision for Kingsley, as was his choice to become a Buckeye. Ohio State was the first of 11 schools he visited, and the fact that such a nationally successful program showed interest in him before his ascent up the rankings (he finished 2017 at No. 345) carried a lot of weight.
“At the time, I wasn’t as good as I am now,” he said. The growth in his game has coincided with a growth spurt; Kingsley now stands over 6 feet tall, opening up a more aggressive game.
Kingsley “can’t wait” to get started with the Buckeyes, and the feeling is mutual. Associate head coach Justin Kronauge was on hand for his first-round Orange Bowl match, getting a better feel for his soon-to-be pupil’s game in between scouting for potential recruits.
“He’s a great player, and he’ll make an immediate impact in the lineup,” Kronauge said. “He’s a guy that loves tennis, and he’s going to work hard and keep getting better. We’re extremely excited to get him on campus.”
A New York native, Kingsley has had to adjust to the heat and the green clay courts at the Orange Bowl. In his native Long Island, he trains on indoor hard courts at Christopher Morley Tennis. Serving well outdoors in the South Florida wind and sun is a far cry from blasting aces indoors, but through three matches, Kingsley’s biggest weapon has traveled well.
“Surprisingly, my first serve has been very good out here,” he said. “I’ve adjusted, and my serve has really kept me in a lot of matches. Also, I think my ability to stay behind the baseline and just stay in points has been really good for me.”
While Kingsley humbly talks about “staying in” matches, he has been a healthy frontrunner in each of his three Orange Bowl matches so far, en route to the quarterfinals. Apart from one tiebreak set in Round 2, Kingsley has dropped just eight games in five other sets on the week.
He is now three wins away from capping his best year ever with his biggest title yet.
Photo Credit: Andrew Ong/USTA