Summerlin resident Kimberly Yee knew at age 3 that she wanted to be a tennis champion. She credits her brother for it.
Yee was learning ballet at the time but one day saw her older brother, Kristofer, bring home a tennis trophy.
“I was 3, and he had a trophy, and I was so jealous,” she said. “There aren’t trophies in ballet. I told my parents I had to quit ballet and I had to play tennis.”
Yee went to the courts with her brother and tried to learn by watching him.
“I wanted it so badly,” she said, “but no one wanted to play with me.”
Her father, Adam Yee, said he probably would have taught his daughter to play anyway, but he figured it would have been when she was 5 or 6, not 3.
Kimberly Yee, 16, is now the top-ranked American tennis player in her age group, according to the United States Tennis Association. She received the association’s 2013 Althea Gibson Leadership Grant of $2,500 for her on- and off-court activities.
Althea Gibson was a professional tennis player and golfer and the first black tennis player to win a Grand Slam title at the 1956 French Open.
Yee said she spent the money quickly, using all of it to play in several California tournaments in March and April.
Her brother, Kristofer Yee, 19, plays for Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Kimberly Yee said she wants to be a professional player but is unsure if she will attend college.
Her coach, Tim Blenkiron, founder of No Quit Tennis Academy, is confident she will go pro.
“I’ve seen thousands of tennis players,” he said, “but this one’s just a little different.”
A typical day for Yee includes a tennis lesson from her father at 7 a.m., more practice with her coach and other kids from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Lorenzi Park, 3333 W. Washington Ave., and school in the afternoon at Odyssey Charter School, 2251 S. Jones Blvd. Homework comes afterward. Yee also volunteers with the Marty Hennessy Jr. Tennis Foundation to coach and mentor younger tennis players on weekends if she is not playing in tournaments.
She said she enjoys working with kids, especially the 3-year-olds.
Blenkiron has been working with Yee for about three years and said she has a few qualities that separate her from others.
Besides being hard-working, “extremely athletic” and a good ball striker, Blenkiron said she “seems to enjoy the pressure that tennis puts on you.”
“Ninety-nine percent tend to diminish under the pressure of tennis,” he said. “She seems to thrive on it.”
Blenkiron said Yee’s attitude also sets her apart.
“Despite her heavy schedule, she still finds time to help kids,” he said. “Most players of her caliber are more divas and think, ‘I’m too good for that.’ … She’s always seeking out ways to help every week. That’s what really makes her a special kid in my mind. She’s very humble. I can’t say that’s a trait many tennis players have.”
She said the highlight of her tennis career so far was going to her first U.S. Open at 14 in New York and playing in the junior division.
“You got to see what the pros are doing,” she said. “It’s so eye-opening, so amazing. … Hopefully I can go this year. You never really know.”
Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5524.