Thai heat takes its toll on teen player

A bout of "very scary" heat stroke aside, young Queenstown tennis ace Kai Milburn performed well in three tough recent tournaments.

Up against some top-ranked juniors, the 17-year-old made the top-16 in the first of two tournaments in Malaysia, beating the fourth seed along the way.

Then, in Thailand, he made the quarters.

And in two tournaments he also reached the quarters in doubles.

The results should see Kai’s under-18 ranking drop from 174 to about 125.

Despite encountering some of his toughest ever opponents, he says "I’m very happy with my level". He’s also taken away some pointers on how to improve his game.

However, not so pleasant was a bout of heat stroke in Thailand last week - in 40° heat - which saw him pull out of a doubles match.

"I was on the stretcher for like three hours ... It was some of the [worst] pain I’ve been in in my life."

Looking ahead, Kai will leave in July to play in Sydney, South Africa and possibly Mexico, and is hoping he can qualify for the US Open junior grand slam in late August.

He’s confident he’ll make the Australian Open junior grand slam in January, especially with players born in 2006 having dropped out of the rankings by then.

Kai qualifies to play juniors till August next year, when he’s hoping to take up an American university tennis scholarship.

Meantime, he’s finished at Wakatipu High and is undertaking year 13 studies via the Te Kura correspondence school.

While he’s now back home, his brother Dan, 16, is warming up in Queensland, Australia, to represent NZ at the Junior Davis Cup Asia-Oceania qualifying event in Kazakhstan, from May 20-25 — Kai captained the NZ team at the same venue last year.

And, not to be outdone, youngest brother Noa, 14, is also performing well. After winning the inaugural U14 clay court nationals in February, he was in an NZ team who finished seventh out of 16 teams in an U14 teams event in Malaysia.