When Kyle Seelig walked into the Legacy Youth Tennis and Education center in East Falls earlier this week, he was treated like a conquering hero.
Which is exactly what he was.
Seelig, a 15-year-old from Hatfield, Montgomery County, represented the Ridge Avenue youth-tennis center in a target-hitting competition at the U.S. Open’s Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day on Saturday. It was an assignment he accepted just a few weeks ago.
With more than 20,000 people watching in Flushing Meadows, NY, he defeated four young competitors in a contest which involved hitting five targets with as many forehands and backhands as possible (30 seconds on each side; bouncing into the target did not count.)
Amateur vs. pros
After a 30-second tiebreaker against one teen competitor, he advanced to face off against noted professional players Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.
That round featured a $1,000 prize (for the center) for each target struck, with a maximum prize of $15,000.
For context, Federer won each U.S. Open between 2004 and 2008; Nadal, the No. 2 seed in this year’s men’s draw, won it all in 2010; and Serena Williams, the top seed in the women’s draw, won the tournament in 1999, 2002, 2008 and last year.
When it was his turn for target competition, Nadal hit 11.
Williams hit 12.
Federer hit 14.
And Seelig? Fifteen.
“This is probably the coolest [tennis victory for me] so far,” said Seelig, a junior at Christian Plumstead High School, who is currently ranked No. 1 in Middle States Tennis Association in boys under 16 years old and eighth nationally.
A moment in the spotlight
Seelig, who has attended the facility formerly known as the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis Center for the past three years, had fans flocking to him for autographs and photos afterwards. One of autograph seekers was actually from Legacy.
Looking back on the experience, he told NewsWorks that he was actually more nervous during the youth competition.
“I was thinking that against Roger Federer, it doesn’t matter what I do,” he recalled. “Nobody expected me to win.”
The teen who nagged his family until they let him start playing tennis at the ripe old age of 5 — “He was barely taller than the net,” his mother Grace noted — humbly smiled when told that a post about his victory set a record for Facebook likes on Legacy’s social-media page.
He also said that while the backhand stroke which fueled his victory is his on-court strong suit, other top-shelf players his age have better serves. This was mentioned moments after he served eight times to this writer who was unable to return a single one over the net.
“I haven’t really been telling people about it, but a lot of people have come up and said, ‘I saw you on TV,'” said Seelig who, as a 6-year-old boy, was playing against 10 and 12 year olds. “It was so loud there; it was insane.”
The inate talent was put into focus when he noted that he’s running out of room for trophies in his bedroom. Still, this victory stands out.
“This is the one that most people know about now,” he said. “Two, 300 people were asking me for autographs? It was a completely different experience.”