Feature

Eighth-grader aces competition, proves to be match for no one

The Bexley tennis courts are often filled with players, but they rarely compare to the skill level of current Bexley Middle School eighth-grader Amiya Bowles. According to TennisRecruiting, she is currently ranked first in Ohio and 19th in the nation for the Class of 2026, earning a record of 50-17 on the youth circuit.

Bowles said she started playing tennis at the age of 5 and said she also participated in basketball, swimming, track and soccer.

“No one in my family played tennis,” she said. “I just liked tennis more.”

Bowles said that she loves the individuality of tennis and the mental and physical challenges that accompany every match.

She only started taking tennis seriously last year, she added.

“I started to pick it up around when the COVID-19 quarantine began,” she said. “Only then did I drop other sports for tennis.”

In the last few months, Bowles competed in both the Orange and Easter Bowls. These tournaments, held annually in Miami, Florida and Indian Wells, California, respectively, are two of the premier international youth tennis tournaments. Bowles made it to the quarterfinals of the Orange Bowl and was recognized by the United States Tennis Association.

“At these tournaments, every match is a battle,” Bowles said. “You’re competing against the best players my age in the world, and I love the challenge.”

Along with competing at these tournaments, Bowles was noticed by multiple professional coaches and invited to train with them. She trained with former top-30 ranked professional tennis player Jamea Jackson and Kathy Rinaldi, the coach of the USA World tennis team, among others.

Despite the increased level of competition, Bowles said that she tries to stay grounded and focus on her technique.

“Even though my matches are much harder, I try to…not think too far ahead,” she said.

Bowles added she often must miss school to attend competitions and train.

“The school has helped out a lot with me being in Orlando training,” she said. “They have helped out with assignments and made sure I know what’s going on.”

Bowles trains at the USTA national campus in Orlando, meeting with other players and coaches, often for a week or more.

Despite the challenges she faces as she tries to juggle tennis and school, Bowles still stresses the importance of her academics.

“My education comes first,” Bowles said. “I always try to get my homework done early and get ahead of my classes because then I can focus on my tennis game.”

Bowles credits her dad most for her success, she said.

“He’s been there with me since day one, and he’s always going to be with me,” she said.

Her father learned more about tennis as he taught her, she explained. He found new techniques on YouTube channels including videos from Richard Williams, the father of professional tennis players Venus and Serena Williams.

Bowles said that her first goal is to win a state title before hopefully playing college tennis at either UCLA or Duke, her dream schools, she said. After a “hopefully successful” college career, Bowles added that she would like to compete on the pro tour.

Bowles believes that tennis is a sport where there is always room for improvement and said that this is one of the main reasons why she loves it so much.

“Tennis is a constant learning experience that keeps you going until you reach the highest level you can achieve,” she said. “I love how nonstop tennis is. There is always something to work on.”

Austin Flamm
Austin Flamm is a junior at Bexley High School and a staff reporter on The Torch.