Sunday will be both a homecoming for Cannon Kingsley, and, in some ways, an introduction.
Fresh off the Australian Open junior boys tennis competition, Kingsley, 17, will continue his ascension on very familiar turf this weekend as he tries to qualify for the main draw at the New York Open at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum — another big step for the Northport resident who’s hoping to establish himself as a professional. Though the odds are long — Kingsley will be one of 16 singles competitors vying for four open spots in the tournament, which begins in earnest on Monday — it’s also an important step for a player who had a strong 2018 and a hot start this year. Kingsley has played in four straight Grand Slam juniors, making it to the singles quarterfinals and the doubles final at the Australian Open in January. He’ll play Canadian Brayden Schnur, 23, in the third match Sunday.
“For sure, this is definitely a milestone,” Kingsley said Thursday, days after learning he had a shot at qualifying. “I’m really excited. I really didn’t expect to be playing . . . Just being at a pro event, it’s a different level, and I’m playing against guys I’ve looked up to.”
The men’s tournament will include the four qualifiers advancing from Sunday’s matches and 28 singles players total, with the top four players getting a first-round bye. The doubles tournament will feature 16 teams. The NY Open, which runs through Feb. 17 and is only in its second year, kicked off Saturday with an exhibition match between Andy Roddick and Jim Courier on the indoor hard courts.
Last year’s winner, Kevin Anderson, withdrew this week due to elbow soreness, leaving the field more open. In Anderson’s stead, Frances Tiafoe — the second-ranked American and No. 30 in the ATP world rankings — will try to win his second career title. The NY Open features four of the top five American players, including No. 1 John Isner (No. 9 worldwide), No. 3 Steve Johnson (No. 34) and No. 5 Sam Querrey (No. 48), who lost in last year’s finals. Doubles should prove a formidable challenge as teams will have to go through the Bryan Brothers, Bob and Mike, winners of 16 Grand slam titles and the gold in the 2012 London Olympics. Mike is ranked the No. 1 doubles player in the world.
Despite the big names, the NY Open has had its share of setbacks: Beside losing Anderson, American Jack Sock, the ATP’s 109th-ranked player, was forced to withdraw with a torn ligament, and exciting 19-year-old Alex De Minaur of Australia, ranked No. 28, pulled out due to illness. But that’s always a risk, said tournament director Josh Ripple, who said the key is creating an entertaining experience for fans, regardless of who’s playing. To wit: The Roddick-Courier match, a Ladies Day on Tuesday morning, and a College and First Responders event Tuesday night.
“There’s a massive, massive base,” for tennis here, Ripple said. “I remember as a kid coming to Islanders games and tennis back in the day . . . [and now] you’re able to build this type of footprint, where you have two competition courts [on the floor] — you can’t do that in many places — so No. 1, it’s fantastic that we even have the opportunity to be here, and No. 2, New York is an amazing tennis town.”
Kingsley can attest to that. He’ll have plenty of support in the stands when he takes the court on Sunday. His expectations are modest, but the competitor in him wants to see how far this can go.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to play [a match like this] anywhere else . . . I definitely think expectations can’t be too high, but [I’m happy] as long as I play my best in front of the home crowd . . . You’ve got to want it for sure.”