Horizons are widening for top Queenstown tennis prospect Kai Milburn after his meteoric start to 2024.

Over three weeks, the 17-year-old won his first three International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior (under-18) singles titles in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, plus a doubles title in Wellington.

In the process, his world U18 ranking leapt from about 300 to 175.

And after winning all 15 of his singles matches he had the joint-most singles wins for any U18 player in the world this year.

‘‘Getting a win every match, it’s a great feeling,’’ Kai says.

In both the Christchurch and Auckland finals he dropped the first sets before rallying to win.

‘‘It’s just the nerves of finals, but after the first set I kind of told myself, ‘it’s nothing to worry about, just get out there and have some fun’.

“Tennis-wise it was very good but I think, mentally, I was a little bit stronger than most of the guys, just locking in and not giving them much.”

Kai, whose service speed’s now 200kmh-plus, says “one of my strengths is physicality and just showing my energy – to kind of show my opponent I’m here to play, not muck around”.

On Tuesday he’s off to play two high-grade international U18 tournaments in Thailand, then two more in Malaysia in April.

Kai’s aim is to qualify for the main draws ‘‘and get the opportunity to play a top-20 or top-50 player’’.

If he goes really well and drops his U18 ranking to around 60 to 70, he could fulfil another aim this year — playing a Wimbledon or US Open junior grand slam.

Kai, who’s in Year 13 at Wakatipu High, is also eyeing an American university tennis scholarship.

His dad and tennis coach, Mark, says he’s already heard from five or six universities over there.

‘‘[Kiwi doubles pro] Michael Venus was impressed with Kai, he did a doubles exhibition with him in Auckland and rang his [former American] college and said, ‘you should get this kid’.’’

Later this year Kai’s hoping to play some pro Futures tournaments to get an ATP ranking, having got his first ATP points late last year.

Mark says they’re very grateful for the support they’ve had from Queenstown Tennis Club, Wakatipu High and others, including ITF for two grand slam player grants.

Last year, the club raised $33,000 from a tournament to help his travel to Kazakhstan to captain New Zealand’s U16 Junior Davis Cup team.

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