16-year-old Regina tennis player competes in first Grand Slam
Regina’s Keegan Rice, 16, is back in Canada after competing at the Australian Open in the junior boys’ singles and doubles categories.
“It was my first Junior Grand Slam. Some of those kids I’ve seen before at other international tournaments, but this was a bigger tournament, a bigger deal and a whole new environment,” Rice said.
Rice lost in the first round of singles to an eighth seed from the United States. In doubles they lost in the second round in a tiebreaker set to the team that would eventually make it all the way to the final.
“I just had the best time there, everybody was so nice and it was really welcoming. I’m excited to see where I can go [from here],” he said.
Rice began playing tennis at the age of five out of the Field House in Regina but now trains full time in Montreal at the national training centre.
He trains five to six days a week alongside the country’s best. Rice’s schedule is extremely busy between practice and tournaments. However, he made a point to come back to Regina after his time in Australia to visit his family, friends and his old tennis stomping grounds.
“It’s kind of like an off week for me so I come back here. I try to keep base here and make a point to see everyone” Rice said.
“Since he’s started he’s always been a natural talent. He probably took off really at the age of 12 but he was always an impressive tennis player since he was little. He’s just really exceeded all expectations not only for himself but all of his peers,” Denise Fernandez, Rice’s coach from the ages of five to 11 said.
Fernandez is the Director for Tennis Saskatchewan and works out of the Field House training the next generation of talent, where Rice began his career. During Rice’s Junior Grand Slam debut, Fernandez said his entire home club was cheering him on.
“It was actually really big [for us]. We were texting trying to figure out how to stream, always on TSN. Our tennis community is not very big here so we all know Keegan from the time he was very little so our club is very involved with supporting our juniors,” Fernandez said.
“I think overall it was a good experience, just handling the pressure and just like the new atmosphere with all the fans,” Rice said on what he learned from the tournament. “There were moments out there where I just looked around and I saw everything that was happening and it was like, ‘This is my life and this is what I wanted’”.
Rice’s Australian Open performance has already earned him Saskatchewan’s youth male athlete of the year just one month into 2023. He will be able to compete in future Junior Grand Slams based on his International Tennis Federation (ITF) rankings. Currently, he is ranked 37th in the world in the under 18 category.
He has a busy schedule ahead of him with ITF tournaments set for Montreal, California, before he heads off to Europe for Roland-Garros (French Open).
“I love new challenges every day and just keeping myself busy with the thing I love. I want to play professionally and make a living off of it. Winning a Grand Slam is my ultimate dream,” Rice said.
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