McKennon moves into main draw

IRVINE — There used to be a time when Max McKennon didn't want his family to watch him play tennis. He said it made him nervous.

That no longer is the case for McKennon.

The Newport Beach kid turned 11 last month and he's competing against older players. The best part is that he's performing in front of his parents and grandparents without feeling any pressure.

They showed up to McKennon's first match at the 111th annual Southern California Junior Sectional Championships, the largest junior tennis tournament in the country.

McKennon's grandparents, Don, and Cynthia Norman, sat in the stands, while his parents, Mike and Donna, stood in the background. They watched McKennon easily push through Saturday's qualifying round into the boys' 12 main draw.

McKennon defeated Corona del Mar's Daniel Day, 6-1, 6-1, at Woodbridge Tennis Club and advanced to his first main draw in singles action at the tournament.

"I'm hoping to just win a few rounds in the main draw," said McKennon, who wasn't sure of the date of his next match, so he asked his mom.

"Mom, what time do I play?" McKennon asked.

"Thursday morning," Donna responded.

Donna and the rest of the family plan to follow McKennon in the round of 64.

The main draw is at a different venue, Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club in Fountain Valley, the host of the tournament. McKennon gets to play there because of his strong forehand and backhand shots, and an effective swinging volley.

McKennon controlled much of the action against Day, a player he knows well. The two train at the same place, the Lizardo Tennis Academy in Cerritos. They have practiced against each other, but they had never played each other in an actual contest until Saturday.

The first meeting between the two went to McKennon. McKennon said Day is a month older than he is, but it was McKennon who pushed Day back with sound strokes.

McKennon spread the ball all over the court, hitting winners near the baseline and sidelines. For much of the match, McKennon smiled. He was dominating. His father liked what he saw.

"He was trying to be a little patient and set up his winners," said Mike, who along with his wife watched most of the match in the shade.

"We try not to [be close]. I don't like to be right on top of the court, you know, when he's playing. If you can step back a little bit and observe, it's better. I try to stay quiet."

Mom was the one who encouraged McKennon vocally whenever Day won a game. She would say, "Let's go, Max!" and he would regain his winning form against Day, who beat Pasadena's Vahag Pashayan, 6-3, 6-4, in the opening qualifying round.

Day wasn't going to spoil McKennon's afternoon, not with McKennon's family there to back him.

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World