Cannon Kingsley is about to take the stage in the biggest event of his career
The 17-year-old from Northport has been given a wild card into the French Open boys singles competition that begins on Sunday. His first Grand Slam tournament is the culmination of an excellent spring run which included a title at an International Tennis Federation clay court event in Santa Croce, Italy.
“I’ve been playing some of my best tennis of my career so far in the last month, competing in Italy the last two weeks,” said Kingsley by text from Barcelona, where he has been training under the auspices of the USTA. He is the USTA’s No. 2-ranked junior player. “I won the Grade 1 ITF in Santa Croce, which was my biggest ITF title. My ranking has now moved up to 32 in the world on the junior circuit.”
Kingsley will meet Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic on Sunday in the first round. Forejtek is ranked No. 31 by the ITF.
Playing for Northport High School as a freshman in 2016, Kingsley won the Suffolk County title. With aspirations of being a pro, Kingsley left high school tennis to play at the highest junior levels and does online schooling.
He’s been climbing up the tennis ladder ever since, though his progress was hampered slightly by a stress fracture in his right foot late last year. But his comeback starting in March has been impressive.
“He was really hot in the fall before the broken foot,” said his father and first coach Harry Kingsley. “A lot of the work, the mental training that his coach has been working with him on, has really been starting to sink in. Christian has done a great job with him.”
That would be Christian del los Rios, who teaches at Christopher Morley Tennis where Kingsley trains. “I’ve been working with him a lot on the mentality,” said Rios, who joined Kingsley in Paris on Thursday. “To keep a longer rally. He was very good with the first three balls, but I’ve made him very good after the fifth or the tenth ball. Patience.”
“Cannon has been playing very well in this trip to Europe,” said Jay Devashetty, the USTA national coach who is in Europe with American hopefuls. “He won the Grade 1 ITF junior event in Santa Croce beating some of the top juniors in the world. He has improved his return of serve considerably, being more aggressive on it and taking time away from his opponents, especially on second serve returns. His serve has also improved a lot.”
In the nearly two years Rios has worked with Kingsley, he’s seen a marked improvement.
“Physically, he’s very fast,” Rios said. “He has very good explosion to the ball and a very good explosion of his stroke through the ball. Everything is a lot of explosion. I think he’s one of the best in the world right now. He used to be a very good player in the United States. Now I think he is one of the best in the world.”
All of which brings Kingsley to Paris with high hopes. “I’m super excited to play my first Grand Slam now at the French Open,” he said. “It’s a dream come true and I think I can go far if I keep my focus like the last few weeks.”