Zhu, Kung named to USTA
Junior Leadership Team
May 1, 2017
Kevin Zhu and Chelsea Kung have been named to the second USTA Junior Leadership Team, which recognizes the finest U.S. junior tennis players who exhibit leadership, sportsmanship and character on and off the court.
Zhu and Kung are among 32 players nationwide named to the USTA Junior Leadership Team. Each player was nominated by his or her USTA section for excellence in tennis and in the community.
“These players truly are role models who exhibit character well beyond their years, both on the tennis court and in the community,” said Bill Mountford, the USTA’s Director of Junior Tournaments. “We’re happy to have a way to give them some of the recognition they truly deserve with the USTA Junior Leadership Team.”
Zhu, 16, a resident of Pearland, Texas, has been the No. 2-rated 16-and-under player in the USTA’s national rankings and has been No. ADVERTISEMENT 1 in the USTA Texas Section in both the 16- and 18-and-under age brackets. Zhu, a straight-A student at Dawson High School, has a number of national and international tournament successes to his name, and he won his first International Tennis Federation junior tournament title at the Newport Beach Bowl in March.
Kung, 16, from Fort Worth, Texas, has been ranked as one of the Top 5 players in the USTA Girls’ 18s national standings and as the No. 1 girl in Texas. This past December, she won the USTA Girls’ 18s National Winter singles championship, one of the USTA’s four junior national titles, and she’s won a number of USTA titles in other age groups, both nationally and in Texas.
Each year, more than 120,000 players compete in USTA junior tournaments. Players compete in levels of competition through earned advancement in the 10s, 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s age divisions. USTA junior tournaments help kids take their game as far as they want – high school, college or pros – or just have fun competing.
In their own words...
Kevin Zhu: Tennis plays an important role in my daily life. Tennis teaches me to work really hard to reach my limit, never give up and solve problems independently. My maturity and independence really benefit from my daily tennis training and court competition. Sportsmanship means a lot to me and my family. I always show my composure and respect to my opponent on the court.
Chelsea Kung: From a very young age, I was playing tennis, albeit not very seriously until I was about 13, maybe 14. With an older sister and brother who both excelled at the sport, I was just there to have fun. Neither my parents, nor myself, for that matter, ever thought I would be anywhere near where I am today.
Unlike many people, I was lucky to have an opportunity to compete and have access to various coaches who each helped me become who I am today. Buddy Atkinson, my first coach from Southlake Tennis Center, taught me to not only play the game but to always enjoy it. While he wasn't my coach for long, due to him wanting to pursue his dream of helping others find God and forgiveness, he definitely left his mark, always reminding me that "[I] was awesome," and that would never change. Soon after, I was introduced to Paul Wagner, who also taught in Southlake, but at a high school. While he was my private coach, I also attended TCU's high performance camp that was coached by the head men's coach, David Roditi. In both places I developed my game even more, which helped me get to the next level. Currently, I train at Lifetime Fitness in Colleyville, where my personal coach, Adrian Simon, is doing everything he can to help me reach my full potential.
My whole life has revolved around tennis and school. Since elementary school, I have been a full-time public school student. Now, as a sophomore at Keller Central High School, I often struggle to balance the heavy workload from AP classes and the extensive training required to keep up with competition. Going straight from school to tennis and getting back around 8 o'clock every night is difficult, but I've learned to deal with it, even if it means pulling all-nighters to complete an assignment. With my competitors always improving, I'm forced to work even harder than them. Knowing full well that they have the opportunity to practice more than I do, it doesn't deter me at all, instead motivates me to work harder, and with the constant support of my family and coach, keeping up with the competition is a team effort.
While tennis has taught me countless valuable lessons about life on and off the court, the friendships that have been made along the way have been something I cherish more than anything. From the many players, parents and coaches that I have had the chance to meet, each friendship has impacted my life for the better. Having the opportunity to meet people from all over the country and even the world not only taught me how diverse tennis is but also how something as simple as tennis can bring together people of all shapes, sizes and ages to do something we all love.
Being able to represent Texas in both national tournaments and team events is an honor in itself. From Zonals to Intersectionals, Fed Cup and every national tournament, competing against other sections with different girls from my own section is not only refreshing but also eye-opening to see all the amazing girls each section has to offer. Representing Texas in a team event is an amazing experience because it gives you a true sense of playing and supporting others who all want the same thing as you – to win as a team. Unlike many other sports, tennis is predominately an individual sport, where, per etiquette, it's not polite to cheer for your player on the court, but by being on a team and competing against other teams, everyone has the opportunity to be themselves and go wild cheering for your teammates. Not only does this give players an insight to what college is like, it gives players a chance to bond as a family and learn to play for not just themselves but for a team.
Whoever said attitude was everything knew what they were talking about. While I like to say my attitude is very respectful to my opponents, I know I have my moments and that it can improve tremendously. How you act on the court really is a direct reflection of your character. Sometime last year, I remember having to say an oath before my match that, at the time, I thought was not only useless but also a waste of everyone's time, mine included. Now, having said that oath more times than I can remember, I not only have the majority of it memorized, but I finally understand its intended message, and I can personally say it has impacted how I act on the court for the better. While I know it is only wishful thinking for the oath to cease cheating and improve the attitudes of all players, it is a helpful reminder to act how you want others to perceive you.
Where I am today wouldn't be impossible if not for the amazing support system that I have, consisting of my family, friends and coach. With my parents always encouraging me to try my hardest in everything I do, whether it's tennis or school, I know they will always have my back in anything I choose to pursue. My current coach, Adrian Simon, or Adi, has always pushed me passed my limits and taught me the importance of setting goals. Not only does this give me motivation to work toward something, it gives me a sense of satisfaction when I do reach the goal, which then gives me the opportunity to set another. When I was younger, goals were in my mind something I paid no attention to. After all, aren't goals just unrealistic dreams every aspiring young child has? Fast forward to the present... I wish I understood the importance of setting goals, both long-term and short-term, but thankfully I have someone to guide me to success.
Tennis, like anything in life, has its ups and downs, with constant bumps in the road, arising out of nowhere. I’ve learned that it's not up to me when or why bad things happen, they're inevitable. Every problem is the cause of a mistake, whether accidental or not, but overcoming the obstacle and learning to fix it is the important part. My journey through tennis has been far from the picture-perfect image many falsely believe. Instead, it has been filled with constant barriers and problems that have only made me stronger when I learn to overcome them. While I like to think I'm a strong, independent young woman, I know that without the support of my family, friends and coach I would be nowhere near where I am today. Growing up, I always thought asking others for help was a sign of weakness, so I never asked for it; I bottled up all of my problems and emotions. It wasn't until one day at practice that I had a complete breakdown, where I finally released all the things I kept inside for so long. Not only did it feel amazing to finally open up to someone who I knew I could trust, it allowed someone to help me and give me their advice, which I will be forever grateful for. Without my parents, coach and friends, I would be half the person I am today.
This past Christmas, I competed in a National Level 1 tournament where I won, and as a result, I was given a wild card into the main draw of the Jackson, Miss., pro tournament, which is fast approaching in April. This past week, I competed in my first Pro Circuit tournament in Tampa, Fla., which was both a great and humbling experience. While I am only 16 years old, playing in this tournament gave me an idea of just how much work still needs to be done in order to get to the next level. Not only were my competitors much older and more experienced, they were also extremely focused and knew exactly what needed to be done in order to win. With more and more opportunities opening up, my parents constantly remind me to always stay humble and to appreciate everything, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Furthermore, they have always taught me that winning is not everything, but putting forth the effort and focus to put yourself in a position to win is. I have learned that while many things in tennis are out of my control, the things I have complete control over are my effort, attitude and sportsmanship. Tennis has given me memories and friendships that I will forever cherish, taught me lessons that I can use in the real world, and, most importantly, to always trust in my ability to be the best that I can be, on and off the court.