Age: 18 (Senior in HS)
Racquet: Wilson Blade 98
Training Facility: Riverside Athletic Club (Hamilton, Ohio)
Current WTA Rankings: 524th in singles & 714 in doubles
Plans for 2020: Malibu 25K
Midland Michigan 100K – Will ask for a wild card
Lexington 100K – Will ask for a local WC
Possibly the Volvo Car Open (SC)
Q: When did you start playing tennis & why did you choose tennis over other sports growing up?
Peyton Stearns: I started playing when I was 8…I remember Mario Contardi taught me how to hit a ball at Harper’s Point. I didn’t focus solely on tennis until I was like 13. I was doing gymnastics, track, basketball, and soccer for a while. It came down to gymnastics and tennis. I really liked tennis and loved my coach. My gymnastics coach was pretty mean and that helped make the decision easier (laughs).
Q: You’ve trained primarily in Cincinnati since the beginning. Proof you can become a professional without moving south or joining an academy. That’s uncommon and big for up and coming players in the Midwest to see.
PS: Yeah, I believe you can make it anywhere you are. You just need to find the right people. People you trust and can work with. I am lucky to have had been coached by some really good pros in the area over the years. Being able to play against and learn from other good players is important. Training at Riverside, I hit with Sandy Niehaus (OSU ’17) and her sister Kelli (’23).…which is good for me.
Q: Looking back on your 2019, how do you think it went?
PS: I think 2019 went well. I recently made my first finals of a $25K in Sumter, South Carolina and reached my career high ranking of 516 this year. I started the year around 1000, so almost cutting that in half was awesome.
Q: Did you have a ranking in mind heading into the year?
PS: My goal was to be around 450….so I wasn’t too far off. I’m happy with it because some of the results I’ve had haven’t gone my way, but I’m still fine-tuning different areas of my game and it’s beginning to show in matches. Now I just need to put it all together
Q: Do you prefer one surface over another?
PS: I feel like my game translates well to any surface, but I would say hard court is my favorite because it compliments my game the best (Record 12-7). My results on clay are pretty good though (Record 12-10). I just feel like when I attack the ball on a hard court…it’s a really good ball, but on clay…you play grinders who can get to that extra ball.
Q: Tennis is a sport that demands a lot of traveling. What are some of the places tennis has taken you?
PS: I’ve played all the junior grand slams (London, Paris, Melbourne, NYC). I’ve also been to Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Canada, and done a lot of traveling in the States.
Q: That’s awesome. Not many 18-year-olds can relate to that. Which slam is your favorite?
PS: (Laughs) That’s what my Mom tells me. It’s true though. And I would say the Australian open. I’m probably a little biased because that was my first slam, but it’s a lot of fun down there. That’s for sure.
Q: What has your high school experience been like?
PS: I started online school freshman year of high school. I wanted to go to Ursuline, but they weren’t cool with me to missing more than 20 days of classes. I was kind of like, “yeah that’s not possible.”
Q: How did you do grade school?
PS: I wasn’t traveling quite as much at that time, but my eighth-grade teacher played tennis and understood the dynamics of the travel schedule. He was nice enough to help me approach other teachers about, so I could have all the class work before leaving. It wasn’t as big of a deal, because I worked ahead. I really appreciate him for that.
Q: Do you miss school at all? Is it more enjoyable having the freedom with online classes while traveling and playing?
PS: I miss it sometimes, but I’m getting to go down a path that no other kids my age are doing. I don’t really feel like I am missing out on anything. I still go to homecoming and prom. I still have friends that go to high school here. And it’s not like I don’t see other kids when I train.
Q: Is college in your plans?
PS: College is in my plans. I have actually narrowed it down to 4 or 5 schools. My parents and coach agree that unless I’m in the top 250 or 275 by the time I have to make a decision (April)…I should go to school…at least for a semester. Then I can leave and have my education paid for when I decide to comeback. I have some time to make the decision, but I want to do it in the next two to three weeks. It’ll be good to get that off my plate, so I can focus solely on tennis.
Q: Have you enjoyed the recruiting process?
PS: It’s awesome to be wanted by so many people, but it can be hard to enjoy when your phone is blowing up every other second. If you don’t respond for a little while, they all the sudden think you don’t want to go there. It can be a lot to manage (laughs).
Q: What schools have been in touch with you the most? Will you stay close to home?
YPS: All of them. But I’ve narrowed it down to Texas, Pepperdine, Florida, Ole Miss, & UVA. I’m trying to escape the Midwest. I think I need to be playing more outdoor tennis than indoor. That’s a pretty big part of the equation.