Laguna Beach resident Sydney Van Alphen beat Kalani Soli of Carson, Calif 6-1, 6-3 to win the USTA Regional Tournament Segment 16s last Sunday at Woodbridge Tennis Club in Irvine. “It was a great feeling,” said Van Alphen of her first USTA victory against national competition. “I was happy that I had supporters there watching me.”
Last August, a then 13-year-old Van Alphen began competing in USTA tournaments against girls as much as fives years her senior. She had modest success, winning the Laguna Niguel Racquet Club Thanksgiving Junior Open 18s, a lower level tournament against local competition.
After Van Alphen lost in the quarterfinals of an International Tennis Federation 18s tournament in Anaheim last April, her father Marc was approached by Taylor Dent, a former tennis professional who saw great potential in the young teen and offered her a scholarship to the Dent Tennis Academy in Newport Beach.
Taylor and father Phil Dent, the only father and son to win ATP titles in the open era, recommended that Van Alphen compete exclusively in the 16s division, where they believed the level of competition is best suited for her development. “They’ve been there,” said Van Alphen. “They know what you have to do to become that good.”
Now 14, Van Alphen began to gain confidence in her stroke, winning the 15th Annual Laguna Niguel Junior Open Tournament 16s in early June before her big serve helped her break through at Woodbridge last Sunday. “My serve was really good in that match,” she said.
Her serve should only get better under the tutelage of the Dents. Phil is known as the “serve doctor”, and Taylor holds records for the fastest serves ever recorded at the French Open (149 mph), Wimbledon (148 mph) and the U.S. Open (147 mph).
Van Alphen hopes the Dent Tennis Academy can do for her what Phil helped his former students Michael Chang and Maria Sharapova achieve. “I want to become top ten in the world and win a couple majors,” said Van Alphen.
Currently ranked 10th among high school freshmen in California and 24th nationally by Tennis Recruiting Network, Van Alphen is prepared to do whatever it takes to reach her goal. “Me practicing a lot and going to tournaments every weekend has just become a part of my life,” she said.