Photo provided by Christine Lui
Lexington teen Benjamin Tso has a new trophy in his bedroom: a “Gold Ball,” proclaiming him the national champion in the US Tennis Association’s 14-and-under age group.
Tso, 14, won all seven matches at the national championship in San Antonio this month, sometimes playing in heat exceeding 100 degrees. He left with the top prize, and a #2 national ranking in his age group.
“I feel pretty good,” said Tso, who will be a freshman at Lexington High. “I’ve been working pretty hard for the last couple months, so I feel pretty good.”
The national championship caps off a summer full of tennis tournaments, Tso said.
His first tournament was right after school, and his summer has been full of competition and tennis camp. “It’s been pretty busy, but it’s fun,” said Tso.
Tournament play will continue during the school year, including a tournament in Arizona over winter break. Making his title all the more impressive, said his coach, Jeffrey Bearup, is the fact that this win came two weeks after Tso came in second at the national clay court competition in Fort Lauderdale.
Bearup said the clay court tournament was as big an accomplishment, if not bigger. "It’s rare that a player is in the finals at both of these events in the same year,” Bearup said, noting the difference between the slow clay court and the hard, fast indoor courts Tso plays on nine months of the year.
“To be in the finals of both of these within a month is quite a feat.” Bearup, the director of the New England Academy of Tennis in Natick, has been coaching Tso for about four years.
During the school year, Tso heads to Natick’s Longfellow Tennis Club for four weekly practices and twice-weekly physical training. “He’s a complete athlete, and he learns so well…he’s an excellent student of the game,” said Bearup. Despite his young age, Bearup said Tso does all this work, goes to the gym, and studies sports psychology.
Soon, Tso will be transitioning into the 16-and-under age group, and retooling his game accordingly. Bearup expects him to make a splash again at next summer’s tournaments. “I’m 100 percent sure he’ll be there,” he said. Tso’s parents are both doctors—mom Christine Lui works at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, and dad Li Tso works at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Both said they are proud of their son’s achievements, on and off the court. “We are especially proud as Benjamin attends public school,” said his mother, Christine Lui. “The vast majority of the top ranked players nationally are either home schooled or attend a tennis academy where tennis takes precedence over schoolwork.. He has to compete against opponents that play tennis far more.”
Tso has won the past three New England sectional championships. His parents said he is the only player to accomplish this feat. Lui said she is also proud of her son’s academic accomplishments, noting that he gets straight A’s and was asked to give the commencement speech at his graduation from Diamond Middle School.
Though Tso said he was unsure what his future plans look like, he would like to play collegiate tennis, and professional tennis is “a distant goal.” For now, he is focused on starting high school, where he’ll play on the tennis team.