Winnipeg’s Kylar a late bloomer with big dreams

Winnipeg’s Kevin Kylar is proving himself as a tennis ace on Manitoba courts

When it comes to the Winnipeg tennis scene, 17-year-old Kevin Kylar is one of the top young aces around. And that’s why some might find it surprising that Kylar actually got his tennis career off to a late start.

Even though his father George was a tennis professional, Kylar took up the game in 2003 at the age of nine. Many juniors first take the court at age six or seven.

“I remember we were watching TV,” said George Kylar, who serves as Kevin’s coach. “A player was playing with red shoes and he liked them. I told him that they’re tennis shoes and you don’t play tennis, and he said if you buy them for me, I will start.”

Better late than never for Kevin Kylar. He is still considered a junior but Kylar has won many local adult tournaments over the last few years, including the singles title at the 2011 Manitoba Open.

“A few years ago, we said that we would play more adult tournaments than juniors so we’ve added onto that in recent years,” said Kevin Kylar.

In that Manitoba Open, he beat long-time Winnipeg tennis star Doug DeVriendt in the final. DeVriendt hadn’t lost to another Winnipegger in almost 15 years up until that match.

“He said that the minute another Winnipegger beat him, he would hang up his racket,” said Kevin Kylar. Sure enough, DeVriendt has not touched a racket since that loss, according to George Kylar.

Kevin Kylar’s last few months have seen him play more and more on the ITP Men’s Tour, which is considered the third-tier tour for men’s professional tennis, behind the ATP Challenger Tour and the ATP World Tour. Playing in what are called Futures tournaments, Kylar has made stops in California, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas, even winning a few matches in the process against some of the world’s top young rising stars.

“He’s progressing almost weekly,” said George Kylar. “Every tournament he plays on the ITP, he does better than the week before and that’s satisfying as a coach.”

The young Kylar practices daily for a few hours, and rather than just hitting a ball around, he says that playing practice games is crucial.

“It’s important to compete,” said Kevin Kylar. “If you play a lot you can see almost every scenario.”

Kylar still plays junior events locally, including this weekend’s Deer Lodge Open that kicks off the outdoor season of the Manitoba Junior Tour. This is his last year of junior eligibility along with his last year of high school, and Kylar has some important decisions to make.

“I’m looking to go to school and play on a tennis team but I’ll probably take a while off and play some tournaments and see how the offers come in.”