With setbacks subsided, Day-light shines again on a promising SoCal champion - USTA Southern California
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With setbacks subsided, Day-light shines again on a promising SoCal champion

At age 16, Santa Barbara’s Kayla Day won the US Open Junior singles title, advanced to the finals in doubles and became the No. 1 player in the world ITF rankings. Three months later, she turned professional at the start of 2017 and in March made it to the third round of the Indian Wells Masters event and seem poised to break into the world top 100. But injuries have taken their toll on Day, and the career highlights have not been what she and her team envisioned. Back home in Southern California following a year living in Orlando and a year in Boca Raton, Day is now injury-free and hoping a recent successful run at three USTA Pro Circuit events in Florida can propel her back among the top American women’s players.

After last week’s performance in Wichita, where she reached the final of a USTA Pro Circuit ITF World Tennis Tour event, Day is finally showing her championship pedigree again.

Over the past two months, Day has advanced through qualifying and made the quarterfinals at a $100,000-level event, won a 25K Futures in Naples and was a semifinalist at a $60,0000 in Orlando. She is currently ranked No. 264 in the world, and at 22-years-old, Day said staying healthy is the key and her No. 1 goal for 2022. “I feel so old!” said Day recently. “I feel like I had so much success so young that it hurt me because I still had so many holes in my game, and I wasn’t really mature enough to handle the week after week of the women’s tour.” Besides the injuries, she was away from home those two years and homesick for her life back in California and the familiarity with her longtime coach Larry Mousouris.

But a year ago, Day decided to make a significant change and started traveling south to Burbank to work with Cecil Mamiit at his Tennis Mechanix Academy. It was the fresh start Day had been seeking. “There had been so many injuries, he just really wanted to start from zero and try to find my identity as a player,” Day said. But soon after they began the comeback process, Day torn her laburm in her so and would be forced to miss yet another summer season of pro tennis. “I haven’t played a summer season since 2017,” she said. “It’s just been tons and tons of injuries.” Day said now that she is healthy she has started to see the results and hopes to keep it going all summer, and the rest of the year.

“That’s the goal – to play the full season.” She will next head to Charleston, S.C., for a $100,000 tournament. Day hasn’t decided if she would like to head to Europe for some smaller WTA events. “My team and I will be talking it over,” she said. “I trust Cecil because he was on the pro tour and has experience knowing which events I should be playing in and navigating the schedule.” One thing is for certain, the “X” is crossed through dates on Day’s calendar near the end of August when her favorite tournament the US Open will take place in New York. “I would really love to play that this year,” said Day, who won the girls’ juniors and played in the main draw in 2016. “I’ve put myself in good position to play in the qualifying. And have a few more events to help me get in. It’s just so special to me since I won the juniors there and played in the women’s (draw).”

Day said she know injuries are part of the game and that she attributes them to a number of factors. “It was really tough,” she said. “Looking back those tough moments only made me stronger now. It definitely makes you appreciate the wins more now.”