Welcome, Class of 2016!
by Dallas Oliver, 31 August 2009
Today is the last day of August, and it's also the last day before the new sixth-graders formally join the ranks of TennisRecruiting.net. This week's rankings at the Tennis Recruiting Network are the first of the 2009-10 season - and they also mark the arrival of the Class of 2016.
The calendar at TennisRecruiting.net runs from September 1 through August 31. We calculated the final rankings for the outgoing seniors during the final week of August, and we bade farewell to the Class of 2009 last week.
With the arrival of September, we welcome the new sixth graders from the Class of 2016. Tuesday and Wednesday's rankings are the first lists for the 2016 boys and girls, respectively.
This article takes a brief glance at some of the top youngsters in the Class of 2016. These kids have performed quite well in the younger USTA divisions at even younger ages.
Madison Bourguignon (Issaquah, Wash.)
We kick things off with a visit to Washington State and Madison Bourguignon. Although she is only starting middle school this fall, Bourguignon has the record of a seasoned veteran - she won 82 out of 107 matches in 2008-09. Those matches took place in 24 different tournaments across eight different states.
Looking a bit closer, the 12-year-old Bourguignon won seven tournaments - including titles in the 14s division. And 14 of her victories came against older players rated as 5-Star or Blue Chip opponents. She went undefeated at the recent zonals
in the 14s division in Colorado.
How did Bourguignon get so involved in tennis at such a young age? As is often the case, she comes from a tennis-playing family.
"My older sister [13-year-old Alexandra] competes nationally", said Bourguignon. I also have a younger sister, Sophia, who plays tennis recreationally."
She got started at a very young age. Her mother, Irene Bourguignon, was the catalyst.
"I played high school tennis - and a little in college," said the elder Bourguignon. "We joined a neighborhood tennis club, and Madison started playing tennis at age three with other young children - they hit balloons with very small rackets. Her sister was already playing and Madison was anxious to play also. She really enjoyed it and started to play more as she got older. Of course, she eventually moved on from balloons to real tennis balls."
Bourguignon, a Washington native who stands just under 5-feet tall, works with Scott Shogreen in Mill Creek, Wash., and Andy Jansen in Spokane.
"We are currently working on improving my footwork during recovery - and my serve," said Bourguignon.
With so much play, Bourguignon takes advantage of online schooling opportunities. She also enjoys math, where she is ahead of grade level.
"Online schooling lets me travel to tournaments - and work ahead in school if needed. I also do extra math throughout the summer."
Bourguignon and her parents are all careful to make sure that she is having fun with tennis.
"Summers are busy with tournaments, so I take a few days off when I can. After I got back from traveling for two weeks [at the Clay Courts and 14s Zonals], I took a week off to spend with family and swim and play. I didn't play tennis at all."
Her parents are very supportive, and they enjoy watching her compete.
"Madison plays with intensity and passion in every match," said Irene. "Her enjoyment of competition and love of tennis is evident - which makes her so much fun to watch."
Nicole Frenkel (Winchester, Mass.)
"She is an impeccably-focused player."
Those are the words that Nick Bollettieri used to describe Massachusetts native Nicole Frenkel
Her performance this past year on the court certainly seems to back that statement up. She has an overall record of 69-13 - including a 17-6 record against older Blue Chip and 5-Star opponents. She holds titles in both National Opens and Sectional Championships, and she won 15 total singles matches in the most recent USTA spring, clay court, and hard court national championships.
"Nicole has always liked individual sports - including tennis, swimming, and table tennis," said her mother, Leah Frenkel. "Tennis is the perfect game for Nicole - she can use her natural athletic abilities like speed and power, and she also has a creative mind and mental toughness. She is known for her aggressive style of play."
Like many top kids, the 4'11" left-hander got her start in the game while watching older siblings play.
"Nicole's older sister Alice was taking tennis lessons when Nicole was just four years old. It was the best time for Nicole - she could grab the big tennis racquet and hit the ball with her sister on the driveway of the house."
Today, Frenkel works with coaches Francisco Montoya and Martin Lezak at the MAC tennis academy. They are working on improving her volleys, transition game, and serve.
"They are also working on her ground strokes," said her mother Leah. "Even though they are excellent, groundtrokes can always get better."
Born in Boston, Frenkel is the daughter of Vassily Budylin and Leah Frenkel. She is currently a student at Laurel Springs School.
"She studies fast and easy and likes to write, read and do math," said her mother. "She likes to spend her free time drawing and painting, and she is also learning to play the piano. She makes friends easy - especially among the tennis players in her club and at the tournaments."
Francis Tiafoe (College Park, Md.)
Many top junior tennis players put in hours at their tennis center, but not many are there as much as rising 6th-grader Francis Tiafoe.
Tiafoe's father works long hours at the highly-acclaimed Tennis Center at College Park
, and his twin boys - Francis and brother Franklin
- started accompanying him to work long before they were interested in playing tennis themselves. When the boys were eight years old, they began training with Misha Kouznetsov, a high performance coach at the academy.
Francis took to it right away.
"He plays tennis every opportunity he has," said Kouznetsov. "He loves it. He is living a dream every time he goes on the court, and he enjoys the opportunities he is being given."
He has been taking advantage of his opportunities in tournaments this year. After winning USTA/Mid-Atlantic 12s sectional championships as a 10-year-old in October and January, Tiafoe started playing up in the 14s. And he won 11 total matches in the Spring Nationals and Clay Courts, bringing home a bronze ball from Greensboro.
The 5'5" right-hander has been working hard to develop new weapons in his arsenal.
"My coach and I have been working on my serve a lot," said Tiafoe. "I can now hold my serve really easily. That has helped my confidence a lot - to know that I can get a lot of easy points off my serve and beat the bigger guys."
Kouznetsov is impressed with the time and effort Tiafoe puts in with tennis.
"He is a really good kid, and he works very hard," says Kouznetsov. "If I turn on the Tennis Channel, he is glued to the television. Tennis is all he wants to do."
The College Park native does balance tennis with schoolwork and life. An honor-roll student, he recently started attending Laurel Springs School.
But tennis is certainly a primary focus, and Tiafoe is thinking very big.
"I like playing other guys, and I like competing. Someday, I want to be #1 in the world."
Maxwell Cancilla (Huntington Beach, Ca.)
Maxwell Cancilla hails from California, and he is one of the highest-ranked players in that talent-rich state. In just a few weeks, he will likely take his place as a Blue Chip athlete in the Class of 2016.
Cancilla had a great year in 2008-09, winning a couple of California titles - as well as eleven matches in National Opens and at Winter Nationals. More recently, the 11-year-old has been competing in 14s and 16s events.
He only stands 4'6" tall, but the little right-hander is speedy.
"He is short, but he is very agile," says his mother, Cady Tsai. "He is focused and competitive, and he treats each shot as if it was match point."
Cancilla was born in Guam to Tsai and Jeff Cancilla, but the family moved to California a few years ago.
Family also had a role in Cancilla's decision to take up tennis.
"Maxwell's older brother Daniel took some lessons in a community park in Utah, and Maxwell loved what he saw. He started taking lessons at age six, and he played in his first USTA tournament when he turned seven."
The younger Cancilla works with Bijan Noroozi at the Woodbridge Tennis Center in Irvine.
"They are working on his consistency and mental toughness," says his mother.
But like all kids about to start middle school, his parents are quick to make sure that his life has plenty of balance.
"Maxwell loves school, and he also takes violin lesson once a week. He also plays soccer and basketball.
"When he is not on the court, he likes to hang out with his buddies from school. They bike together, and they take some amusing videos with camcorders from time to time."
I hope you have enjoyed our visit with some of the kids who will be the future of American tennis. We look forward to seeing the Class of 2016 on TennisRecruiting.net for years to come!
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