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Newport Beach resident Max McKennon earns French Open spot

Newport Beach's Max McKennon is shown hitting a forehand on June 21, 2019.
Newport Beach’s Max McKennon, shown hitting a forehand during a USTA Southern California Junior Sectional Championships match on June 21, 2019, is headed to France on Sept. 25.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Max McKennon has been playing junior tennis tournaments for about a decade now.

In some ways, it has all led up to this moment. The Newport Beach resident now has a chance to excel on his biggest stage yet.

He has been selected to participate in the boys’ singles main draw at the French Open. McKennon, 18, will be competing in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

McKennon and his coach, Carsten Ball, a former Corona del Mar High School standout, will be leaving for Paris on Sept. 25, McKennon’s mother, Donna, said. There is no qualifying tournament this year for boys’ singles due to COVID-19, so McKennon advances straight into the main draw of 64.

“The opportunity to play the French Open as my last junior tournament means so much to me,” McKennon said in a text message. “I grew up watching [Rafael] Nadal playing on the red clay in Paris and have always dreamed of playing. I am so ecstatic to be given this last opportunity to play a Grand Slam in arguably one of the best cities in the world.”

Kenneth Mullinix survived a stroke in 2015. Five years later, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the 63-year-old swam 100 miles. He wants stroke survivors to know that recovery is possible.

McKennon, who is a freshman at Arizona State, also hoped to play in the juniors at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open this year. But Wimbledon was canceled this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and the recently completed U.S. Open did not have a juniors tournament.

He is ranked No. 62 in the world in the boys’ juniors by the International Tennis Federation, and will be one of just four Americans in the main draw at Roland Garros.

“I want to thank my coaches and family for all of the support and the French federation for making it possible,” McKennon said. “I am so excited to represent the Sun Devils in Paris!”

Donna McKennon said that her son and Ball must get a COVID-19 PCR test with negative results back within 72 hours of plane departure. They have found a location in Newport Beach that turns around results within 24 hours, so they will be tested Tuesday and fly out Sept. 25, if all goes according to plan.

The boys’ singles tournament starts Oct. 4. Draws have yet to be released.

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