Tennis star’s path to Princeton

May 1, 2014 — by Anant Rajeev and Jihau Yu

Down a set two games to three, senior Kial Kaiser focused his eyes on the ball as he prepared to serve. Time seemed to freeze as he threw the ball in the air, his eyebrows frowned in intense concentration.

He was in the deciding match in the 2013 Maze Cup, a prestigious tournament in which the best tennis players from Northern and Southern California met. NorCal had not won the Maze Cup in 30 years and Kaiser had the opportunity to knock off their longtime rivals.

Unfreeze. The ball came soaring back down and Kaiser whacked the  ball with a fierce serve. Despite the strength of his opponent, Kaiser, through his fierce rallies, came back to win the match in three sets.

“It was an awesome feeling to make that comeback, especially since I was behind at first,” Kaiser said.

As a tennis player, senior Kial Kaiser has always been among the top tennis players in the country, and his playing ability will see him take his talents to Princeton University this fall.

His inspiration to play came from none other than his older brother Kevin Kaiser, a Saratoga High alumnus and established national tennis player who played for Stanford University, and from his supportive family.

“Even from when I started playing, I loved being alone on the court and being able to fight for myself,” Kaiser said. “My parents saw success in my game from a young age and so it was obvious for me to continue playing.”

Kaiser has improved as a player by practicing three to four hours most days. Working out and being “mentally mature” has also helped him. He said that the daily practice time has allowed him to work on all aspects of his game.

As Kaiser got better, he started to play tournaments in Northern California and then eventually moved on to play national tournaments in order to increase his ranking.

Ever since Kaiser was 12, he has been ranked among the top 15 tennis players in his age group in the country. Kaiser said that being among the elite players made him assume that it would play a major factor for getting into colleges because “it has so much pull.”

Despite his love for team tennis, Kaiser has only played two years of high school on the high school team to focus on individual tournaments.

“I veered away from school tennis because the level of competition was declining,” Kaiser said. “Plus, each game would take an hour to an hour and a half, so it would take a lot of time out of my day.”

However, in his time playing for the school team, Kaiser learned the value of teamwork and cooperation that comes with the sport.

“Playing as an individual gives you a more independent feel, like you're out there on your own with no help,” Kaiser said. “But being on a team really makes you feel a part of something bigger than your own success.”

Originally Kaiser was going to take a year off school after graduating to play in International Tennis Federation tournaments, which are international tournaments for aspiring professionals. However, Kaiser  had a change of heart last October realizing  he did not want to miss out on the college experience along with his peers.

Deciding against taking a year off, he contacted all the Ivy League schools and Stanford. Of the schools he contacted  expressed interest in recruiting him.

After receiving many offers, Kaiser  decided to only apply to Princeton and Stanford, the only Ivy League school that he was interested in.

Kaiser didn’t gain admission into Stanford, despite the coach's effort to get Kaiser in. Kaiser said that being an athlete recruited by Stanford is no guarantee of admission.

“I was going to take year off, so I contacted Stanford a little too late,” said Kaiser “They already had three recruits, so it was hard for [the coaches] to push to get a fourth.”

In the meantime, Kaiser committed to Princeton University, which he called his top choice anyway. When Kaiser was choosing a college he wanted to choose the best school based on the strength of its academics as well as a strong tennis program.

“I could have picked a top 15 tennis program and sacrificed academics for a better tennis program, but I realized that I wanted a good program with the most elite academics possible,” Kaiser said. “Plus, Princeton, ranked [61] nationally, is moving up in rankings and the [tennis] program is really on the rise.”

Kaiser was especially interested in Princeton because of the environment surrounding the tennis program.

“What differentiated them from the other top Ivies were the coaches and the team and the motives they share,” Kaiser said.

Kaiser has many aspirations for his experience at  Princeton this fall.

“I hope to see my singles ranking as high as possible and see the team in the top 20 in a couple of years while developing to my full potential,” Kaiser said. “If I have a shot to be a professional, I will take it after I finish school.”

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