Guided and coached by her father, Vi, 12-year-old Anna Nguyen of Reading has been playing tennis competitively since the age of 10, dominating in tournament play on the local and national stage.
Her most impressive achievement yet occurred on Nov. 26, when she won the Gold Ball at the L1 Indoor National Championships for 12-year-olds at the Manchester Athletic Club.
The seventh-grader from Walter S. Parker Middle School in Reading entered the tournament of 64 as the ninth seed for singles play. She was able to knock off Thea Latak, a 12-year-old from the Midwest, in the finals, 6-4, 6-4, to claim the crown.
Vi Nguyen is in his 11th year as a high-performance tennis coach at Boston Sports Club in Lynnfield.
“I think it’s awesome having your parent as a coach,” Anna said. “They know you better and know when you need to take a break, or when you need to keep on going. They can push you to the limits.”
Anna was encouraged by her father to pick up a racket at the age of 4. Vi would bring his son Alan, a junior and top tennis player at Reading High, and Anna to Boston Sports Club while he worked.
“The first couple years, I was thinking they’d go there to swim and to keep them healthy,” said Vi. “[Anna] picked up the ball at four and a half. She got really good around 10 or 11.”
Though she may have had the talent, it took Anna a while to truly enjoy the sport.
“My dad wanted me to start playing tournaments, but I didn’t really want to,” she explained. “I was really young, so I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
Natural tennis skills run in the Nguyen family. Vi moved to America from Vietnam in 1991, when he picked up the sport. He had no prior experience with tennis.
“I played high-level table tennis when I was young, back in Vietnam,” said Vi. “From table tennis to tennis, it was no big deal to me. I played with a lot of good players, and I became good.”
After picking up tennis, he became a trainer. He worked his way up to become a high-level trainer, meaning he can work with anyone in the country at any level.
He said he has spent some time working with professional Alla Alexandrovna Kudryavtseva.
With years of experience coaching many gifted players, Vi still believes his daughter is one of a kind.
“Anna is totally unique,” Vi said. “She’s always calm, win or lose. That’s the difference.”
Though that may be true, losing is rare. The young phenom has been climbing the national ranks as well as the New England ranks. Nguyen currently sits at ninth in the national rankings for 12-year-olds and second in New England for 14-and-under, according to the United States Tennis AssociationUSTA.
Father and daughter can be seen working together three days a week for about two hours. Their communication and ability to work with one another are second to none, according to Dave Chapman, Boston Sports Club tennis director in Lynnfield, who works alongside Vi two days a week with Anna.
“They have one of the best relationships between father-daughter and coaching-daughter that I’ve seen,” said Chapman, who has worked with the pair for five years.
“It’s very positive — they laugh a lot and are always smiling. It’s not one of those things where it’s an overbearing father.”
“Her nickname is ‘The Book,’” Chapman said. “The reason why is because she loves reading and loves reading the game of tennis. [Vi] and I talk about how every time she’s playing, it’s just another chapter in the book. It’s not the end of the book, but it’s just another chapter.”
Joe Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.