In the past few months, Reese Brantmeier has made a sudden and striking impact on the national junior tennis circuit.
She’s also still too young to drive.
The Whitewater native, who will turn 15 in a few days, is regarded as a “blue-chip” prospect and one of the best junior players in the country after a whirlwind summer that saw her win a major national tournament and reach the quarterfinal round at another.
Among high school sophomores—the class of 2022—Brantmeier is ranked No. 1 in Wisconsin, No. 1 in the Great Lakes Region and No. 5 in the nation, according to Tennis Recruiting Network.
Brantmeier broke through on the national stage by winning the 16s singles title at the Billie Jean King National Championships in San Diego, California, in early August. As the 14th seed, Brantmeier upset both of the tournament’s top seeds to win the title.
Her surprising run was capped with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over top-seeded Valencia Xu, the No.4-ranked player in the class of 2021, in the Aug. 10 final.
“I really focused like any other match,” Brantmeier told Tennis Panorama News after the match. “I stayed calm even though there were all the people and the cameras. I just stayed really aggressive and didn’t lose my head.”
A few weeks later, Brantmeier reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open Junior Championships in New York, falling 6-4, 3-6, 1-6 to Alexandra Yepifanova.
Brantmeier spoke with a Gazette reporter Thursday from the United States Tennis Association’s National Campus in Orlando, Florida. She’s training there for the next few weeks.
The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and readability:
Q: I understand you’re in Florida training with the USTA. How often are you away from Whitewater these days?
A: I’m gone a lot more. This summer, I was home for probably less than two weeks. I’ve been on the road for a long time. I don’t think I’ll be home until December.
Q: Do you get homesick or have you gotten used to the travel?
A: I have slowly built to this point, so it doesn’t really bother me at this point. I love traveling, too.
Q: You’re also going to school full-time at Whitewater High School, though obviously you’re not there in person. How do you balance schoolwork and your training schedule?
A: (I take) an online program through the high school. It’s about the closest I can be to regular school with my tennis schedule. They’ve been super, super accommodating. I have a pretty normal schedule, I just do it all online.
Q: What is your favorite class currently?
A: I’ve always loved math. I’m taking pre-calc and am really liking it.
Q: Glancing through the player rankings for your class—the class of 2022—you see a lot of players from California, Florida or Texas near the top. You’re definitely an outlier. I don’t think many people see Wisconsin as a tennis hotspot. What’s your take on that?
A: Everyone’s shocked when they hear I’m from Wisconsin. I started playing through a friend for fun. I loved it, so I stuck with it.
Q: When did you first start playing tennis and when did you start taking it more seriously?
A: I started playing when I was 8. My parents didn’t play, so it was a totally new experience for all of us. As I kept improving, I would go to more local tournaments and then state tournaments and regional tournaments.
I started playing tournaments about a year into it. When I was 10, I started thinking I could really win some of these events and we started going to more Midwest Regional stuff.
I started playing nationals at 12. I’ve been playing super nationals for about two years. Also playing international events.
Last year I started thinking about potentially (going) pro.
Q: What benefits come from training with the USTA?
A: This definitely would not be possible without the USTA. They’re offering me training and help with tournaments that I probably wouldn’t be able to afford on my own.
A lot of the pros train at the national campus here. When I’m here I get to train in the gym with the pros. They’ve been so helpful between closing that gap between juniors and pros.
Q: How early were you moved into the national training program? Was simply playing varsity tennis for Whitewater ever in your plans?
A: I changed my goals as I got better. When I started, I had no clue any of this would happen.
Q: Winning the Billie Jean King Nationals tournament in San Diego in early August was probably your coming-out party. Was that your breakthrough?
A: It put me on the map for a lot of people. Everybody dreams of winning a national championship. That’s been my goal.
I broke my wrist at the beginning of January. That was a long recovery. I wasn’t sure if I was going to qualify for the national event. I was just happy to have made it. To go in there and win it was just so amazing.
Q: What was your injury rehab like?
A: Three months of rehab. I had that time off and I could take a step off and realize how much I missed it. It was such a big motivator. It did wonders for my game.
Q: How would you describe your style of play? What are your strengths?
A: I’ve always been a really aggressive player. I’ve always been taught to play really aggressively—to swing as hard as I can on each ball. When I started, I lost a lot. I was just this little kid swinging and missing everything.
It gives me a chance against anybody. If I hit my shots really well, I think I can beat anybody. If I’m making that first strike in a game, the results are more up to me than if I was reacting to other players.
Q: What are your plans for the next few months and then long-term?
A: I’ll be playing more pro tournaments. Long term, I just want to make sure I keep improving.
(Brantmeier also said she would like to play tennis in college. NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from making contact with high school sophomores, but Brantmeier expects to be heavily recruited next year.)
Q: Have you thought about a potential career outside of tennis or what you would like to study in college?
A: I’m really interested in cryptology. I’ve always loved solving puzzles and things like that. That has some crossover on the court. It’s super helpful if you know how to problem-solve while you’re playing.