INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Kayla Day has a beaming smile, one of those smiles which lights up a face, and while this week in the desert has given her plenty to smile about, it seems that she's the kind of person who doesn't need many excuses to crack out a grin.
When asked to describe herself in one word she chooses "hilarious". The 17-year-old admits to being "pretty funny, I'm serious sometimes but I like to crack jokes a lot and laugh." She clearly enjoys life and with the kind of impressive talent that saw her take out No. 32 seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni on her way to the third round at the BNP Paribas Open, there is plenty to be happy about.
The California native first picked up a racket at the age of seven after watching her mom play in a women's interclub match. She thought tennis looked 'fun' and subsequently signed up for a week's tennis camp, loving it so much she ended up playing 'every day all summer' before locking in to regular lessons in her hometown of Santa Barbara.
A few years later she started making the four-hour round trip to Carson twice a week with her mom and she still trains there today under the watchful eye of Henner Nehles.
"My dream was always to be a professional but I really started thinking about it when I was 15," said Day, who won the first Grand Slam match she played when she defeated Madison Brengle at last year's US Open. That victory set up a second round meeting with Madison Keys on Louis Armstrong Stadium.
"It was such a good experience. I mean, I got two matches," said the lefthander. "I got to play one of the great American players right now, Madison Keys. And I got to play on such a big court, and that was the first time I had ever been on such a big court."
It was quite a fortnight for Day who claimed her first Junior Grand Slam title at the same event and also finished as runner-up in the girls' doubles competition with Caroline Dolehide. Her junior successes ensured she ascended to World No. 1 in the junior rankings - a position she hopes to hold one day in the senior ranks, although she is having to practice the art of patience in the pursuit of her career dreams.
"I want my results to come, like, now. I want everything to be as fast as possible," she admitted. "I think my coach is really good about telling me, like, focus on the process and improving and the results will come."
Day is bubbly and confident and seems to be taking her success in her stride. She certainly doesn't struggle for motivation either, divulging she was almost too psyched for her meeting with Lucic-Baroni.
"Before a match I either go Maroon 5 mellow or really pump out Kanye West or Jay Z," she revealed. "Before I got in the car [to go to the courts] I was all pumped up and then I got in the car and I was like, man, I'm a little too pumped up, maybe I should mellow it down so I went Maroon 5 right before I went out there."
As well as enjoying music, Day is a big fan of Stephen King novels and Netflix series like Grey's Anatomy and The Vampire Diaries. Her non-tennis talents include speaking fluent Czech, thanks to her mom who was born and raised in the Czech Republic, and making a good butternut squash soup.
- Photos courtesy of Getty Images