By: Vince Menon
Senior Kyle Dandan (KD), a native of the Philippines, added All-WCC First Team Singles honors to his already impressive Bronco tennis resume after finishing 14-12 at No. 1 singles. He also paired during the season with Nicolas Vinel and Thomas Pham at No. 1 doubles, finishing with an overall record of 16-4. SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCB) caught up with Dandan about his upcoming senior season, growing up on the international tennis scene and the differences between tennis in the United States and tennis abroad.
SCB: How busy is your practice and tournament schedule this offseason? Are you taking a break from the long season or getting right back in to competition?
KD: I began my off-season by taking a few weeks off. I felt like I needed to relax a little, but I was still working out and hitting balls with some of my teammates to keep me in shape.
Because I am currently taking summer classes, I have yet to play any tournaments. However, I recently started more serious and intense training to prepare me for some summer tournaments as well as for the season starting up in the fall.
SCB: As a freshman you received All-WCC Honorable Mention, as a sophomore All-WCC Second Team, and after this past season All-WCC First Team Singles honors. What kinds of goals do you have individually going into your senior season? What are some team goals you have for next year?
KD: I am very honored to have received these prestigious awards. Of course, I wouldn't have been able to do this if it weren't for my awesome teammates, coaches, and family. They have believed in me and supported me since I first set foot on the courts of Santa Clara. So I thank them a lot for that.
For my team, our goal is to work very hard and get in the top 40 to make it to the NCAA tournament. We are also gunning for the West Coast Conference Championship crown. We've been in the finals two years in a row and it wouldn't be a bad idea to try to win it the third time around.
Individually, my goal is to be ranked high enough to make it to the NCAA tournament in singles. That has always been my goal and I have been working hard to reach it, so hopefully I get lucky on my last year. But you need skill and diligence to be lucky, so I have no excuse but to work my hardest for the coming season.
SCB: Talk about your experience as a member of the ITF World Touring team and Philippine Junior Davis Cup team. What was it like playing some of the top junior players in the world and how has it helped you here at Santa Clara?
KD: My experience as an ITF World Touring team and Philippine Junior Davis Cup team member was one of the highlights of my tennis career. I played with and against the best players in the world at that time. Not surprisingly, most of them are playing college tennis here in the United States and some are playing on the Pro circuit.
Being able to play at the top level internationally during my junior career (under 18's) helped prepare me for the competition here. I heard that some players are surprised by how tough the competition is in college tennis, but I arrived with an idea of what to expect and that helped a lot. Because I had the advantage of playing a lot of international tournaments, I came to Santa Clara feeling more confident. I felt I had more experience than other players.
SCB: Having an extensive background in international competition how is tennis in the United States different from that in other countries in your view?
KD: The competition in the United States and abroad is pretty much the same. There are a lot of international players in US college tennis as well as a lot of very talented Americans, so the combination of national and international players makes the competition just as tough.
In terms of how the game itself is played, the only major difference is that you play on different surfaces in tournaments abroad. For instance, in Europe, we played on clay, grass, and hard courts (clay being the dominant surface). The variety in surfaces made the game tougher. In the US, we only play on hard courts. In a way, this makes it difficult because all of these players excel on hard courts. It is a bit of a disadvantage for me because I grew up playing on clay. My strokes and movement are tailored for clay, but having played here for three years has helped me adjust to hard courts, add more variety to my game, and honestly, learned how to love it even more.
SCB: You've played in the Junior Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon Championships, and all around the world. What is your favorite surface to play on and specifically where have you enjoyed playing the most?
KD: I love clay the most, and that is what we played on in the Junior French Open. Tennis played on a clay court has more variety - you don't really know what to expect, so you need to be focused at all times. The rallies can be really long as well, so good footwork and endurance are a must. Because of these factors, I always say that REAL tennis is played on clay!
However, I also loved playing at Wimbledon - and not just because of the beautiful grass courts. Being part of the championships, I could truly feel the elegance, the prestige, and the honor of not only being at Wimbledon but also of having the privilege to actually play on its courts. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.