The Newmarket Tennis Club makes no secret of its connection to homegrown star Liam Draxl.
If you walk into the club, you can see a banner with Draxl’s face, plastered with his accomplishments — becoming the No. 1 ranked NCAA player last year; getting as high as rank 559 ATP professional ranking.
More recently, playing for the University of Kentucky, the 20-year-old has continued to rack up accolades, scoring five clinching points en route to helping his team reach the final of the NCAA men's tennis tournament in May.
“It’s been a crazy one, for sure,” Draxl said of his past season. “We worked hard as a team, and we kind of took it one match at a time … It was an incredible experience I will never forget."
Draxl grew up playing tennis in Newmarket, where his father and accomplished tennis player Brian Draxl coached him. He rose to prominence as a junior player, winning titles with the Ontario Tennis Association and becoming No. 1 ranked provincially and nationally in U14.
“Newmarket Tennis Club, it’s very special,” he said. “It feels like a family. Everybody knows everybody. All the members get along so well … When I was younger, I would just live at the club all day. I'd go up to Main Street if I wanted something to eat. It just made me fall in love with the game.”
That love of the game has carried Draxl far as he began reaching toward the professional world of tennis. He won his first professional title in doubles at the ATP Challenger in July 2021. He currently ranks 454 in doubles under the ATP and reached a career-high of 330 July 18.
Draxl has seen plenty of success spending his last three years at the University of Kentucky, where he majors in communications.
Making the leap to play at NCAA or any new competition comes with some adjustment, but there is a process he sticks to.
“It’s essentially the same thing. I’m working very hard every day trying to get better,” he said. “You have to be really process-based when you’re trying to be a pro athlete. That’s what I tell myself all the time. I don’t get too hung up over a win or loss, I just stick to the process.”
Playing toward a professional career comes with setbacks, whether injury or travel complications, Draxl said.
But he added that his love for the support has kept him driving forward.
“I love the competing aspect. I love playing all those matches, competitions,” he said. “My family, my mom and dad, they’ve sacrificed so much for me, I don’t want to let them down … I want to make them proud as well. I want to make Newmarket proud."
The tennis star is back in town for a few weeks as he prepares for pro tournaments in Quebec and Alberta.
Draxl will be practising with his dad, with the club that helped develop him into the player he became.
“It’s a long road. There are no secrets, and you just got to work hard and try to be the best version of yourself every single day.”