Tennis Player Austin Williams, Cherokee, Is Growing Into a Star
Austin Williams is hoping some strong performances in his few remaining tournaments will help him finish on a rather upbeat note in his current tennis age grouping.
Williams, a 16-year-old Cherokee from Wichita, Kansas, is coming to an end of his under-16 playing days.
Since he does not turn 17 until Mar. 23, Williams is eligible to compete in this grouping until the end of February. But he only plans to enter two more under-16 tournaments.
The first one is scheduled for Dec. 7-9 in Kansas City. And then he's hoping to go out with a bang at the United States Tennis Association's (USTA) boys' under-16 winter nationals.
This tournament begins on Dec. 27 and continues until Jan. 2 in Phoenix.
Williams is currently ranked 126th on the USTA's national rankings for his age group. He'll be one of 128 players entered in the singles draw at the Phoenix tournament.
"If I did well and I won three or four rounds, I can definitely crack the Top 100," he said.
A year ago, in his first season in the under-16 category, Williams won one of his matches at the winter nationals, which were also staged in Phoenix.
He believes his game has improved throughout 2012.
"My forehand has gotten significantly better," he said, adding he attributes this to coaching and plenty of practice.
Though he's not a member there, Williams spends most of his time practicing at the Wichita Country Club. The two coaches he primarily works with are Rex Coad and Joshua Rupp.
Though he's had some impressive results, Williams' mother Lynn said her son has also been plagued with some setbacks during his under-16 days, especially in the first year of his two seasons in this division.
"He had a tremendous growth spurt which caused some problems in his lower back," Williams said of her son, who is now 6-foot-3.
The younger Williams also had to contend with some hamstring injuries as well as getting his ear drum replaced.
Yet he managed to make some tremendous strides this season. He had started off the year ranked 295th in the national rankings. And with a strong performance in Phoenix, he could conceivably improve about 200 spots from this past January.
Williams is able to travel from state to state participating in tournaments as the high school junior is taking all of his classes online.
His tennis career though is a costly venture. His mother estimates it costs anywhere between $1,500 to $2,500 per month to keep him on the courts.
"It's a Catch 22 situation," she said. "If we can get him into a tournament, then we can't get him trained properly."
The elder Williams said the family can usually only afford to pay for one lesson per week for Austin.
"Anybody that is in the Top 100 is doing more," she said. "They need it."
Williams and her husband Craig own DME Electronics, a small Kansas-based aerospace manufacturing company. The couple has been financing their son's career and travelling with him throughout his rise.
"It's been an interesting couple of years," she said. "Our lives have changed drastically."
Williams believes her son is one of the few male Native teenagers who are playing elite tennis.
"There are (other Native) boys playing," she said. "But I don't know of anybody playing at this level."
Williams has already been attracting his share of interest from tennis coaches at NCAA Division I schools. He's confident he'll be offered a scholarship in his senior year of high school.
As for the tennis pro he most enjoys watching these days, that would be Canadian Milos Roanic, a towering 6-foot-5 player who is hoping to break into the world's Top 10 rankings soon.
"He's a big guy and he plays similar to me," Williams said.
You can watch Austin in action in this short video.