American wildcard Kayla Day made some waves at the BNP Paribas Open this week as the 17-year-old ousted No. 32 seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni before pushing reigning Roland Garros champion Garbiñe Muguruza to a third set in their third-round clash. The Santa Barbara native now resides in Long Beach, Calif., close to the USTA facility in Carson, where she's trained for the past eight years. We talked to her after her bold performance against Muguruza on Stadium 1.
Q: Most 17 year olds from Santa Barbara are probably worrying more about their next Snap or getting out to the beach, yet here you are facing a Grand Slam champion on one of the sport's biggest stages.
Kayla Day: I’m just really happy with myself. A lot of people my age don’t know what they’re going to do, planning on college. I’m happy that I found my career so early. It means a lot of me that I can be out here with the best players in the world.
Q: Introduce yourself to us. What would you like us to know about you?
KD: I’m not very serious off the court. I like to crack jokes. I have a pretty strong personality but not so serious. I like to keep things light. But on court I’ve been told I have a death stare. (smiles)
Q: You won the Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, and today you push Muguruza to a third set. These wins must be doing well for you.
KD: All these wins are doing so much for my confidence. Every place that I go to that I get to experience the top level again and be put on bigger and bigger courts, I think I’m more comfortable every time I go out there. When I went out against Madison Keys on Louis Armstrong Stadium, I was deer in headlights. It was a great experience, but with every experience you keep building and the next time you get more comfortable. Next time in the same situation I can end up winning because I feel more comfortable out there.
Q: What was going through your mind in that second set as you went neck-and-neck against Muguruza?
KD: She was playing well on every break point [in the second set]. At 5-6, when I was broken, I think I still played a pretty decent service game. I think she upped her game a little bit. That was kind of unlucky but there’s a reason why she is Top 10 in the world.
Q: Who were your tennis idols?
KD: Kim Clijsters, Nadal, Federer. I really liked Kim Clijsters when I was growing up.