MELBOURNE -- Jagger Leach’s smile said it all Saturday.

The 16-year-old, like most if not all of the players competing in the Australian Open junior events, is making his dream a reality. He is competing in his first Grand Slam boys’ singles main draw and defeated Daniil Sarksian 7-6(4), 6-4 in the first round.

As exciting as that is for the American, he has had the privilege of spending plenty of time at Melbourne Park before.

“I remember very, very vividly, I was always traveling with my parents to these tournaments. They were coaching Madison Keys for a period of time and so I was here,” Leach told “I saw what the pros did and just the lifestyle of going from city to city and playing tennis with all the fans and the atmosphere, and the whole lifestyle that they lived and what I saw. I was like, ‘Oh man, I want that to be my life. That would be pretty sweet’.”

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That is what made the teenager’s experience even more special Friday when he arrived at Rod Laver Arena for the juniors’ meeting ahead of the season’s first major. As he walked in, Leach could not help but notice one of the names on the champion’s wall.

His mother is 2000 Australian Open women’s singles champion and former WTA World No.1 Lindsay Davenport and his father is former college All-American Jon Leach (USC). Jagger’s uncle is former No.1 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings Rick Leach.

“There is obviously a little bit of pressure on him being my son but I think he handles it pretty well,” said Davenport, who is in California commentating on the Australian Open for Tennis Channel. “He's also very close to his uncle who was a great player and we all try and help him see the big picture and support him as best we can.”

Jagger’s family never needed to convince him to pursue tennis, nor did they try. He does not remember when he first started playing the sport, but has photos of when he was extremely young with a baby racquet while his mother was still competing as a professional.

“They would just toss the ball up and I'd try to hit it,” Leach said. “I don't remember that, but we have pictures of it.”

“He has always loved tennis — being around it, watching it, playing it — and we experienced the complete opposite with his sisters,” Davenport said. “We have never had to force him to practise or make him go train. So we have always just tried to foster that love and give him all the opportunities we can.”

One of those opportunities was being around the Tour. Davenport has remained around the sport since her retirement as both a commentator and a coach, most notably working with Keys.

“Madi was a huge influence for him. He was young when I first started working with her and always let him be around and on the court and practices,” Davenport said. “I could tell him what being on tour was like, but she really let him see it. And she and [fiance] Bjorn [Fratangelo] are so supportive — hitting with him, letting him stay with them in Orlando when he's there to train.”

Fratangelo said: “I’ve gotten to know Jagger well over the last couple of years and obviously Madi has been around Jagger since he was little. We streamed some of it last night on ESPN3. Obviously we’re super pumped for him. I’m not sure there’s anyone on this earth who loves the game more than Jagger does.

“He’s got a huge game and on those courts, he’s definitely a dangerous floater.”

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Leach is No.54 in the ITF Junior Rankings and has been among the best players his age in the United States for years. A junior in the Class of 2025, he has committed to Texas Christian University. His journey has been far from smooth, though.

In August 2020, Leach was in a bad ATV accident and was airlifted to a trauma hospital for a five-hour emergency surgery. The family spent 10 days at the hospital and Leach was not able to bear weight for five months.

In 2021, he had surgery on both his legs for growth plate issues and to remove a plate and screws, keeping him away from the sport for another three months.

“Long road!” Davenport said. “Super rewarding to see him at this level, so yes, Jon and I are super emotional! There were times he never thought he'd be able to play.”

Last year Leach lost in qualifying for the US Open boys’ singles event, and this is his first Slam main draw. Whenever he would join his family in Melbourne at a younger age, Leach would watch six or seven movies because he has a hard time sleeping on planes. But now that he is the competitor, he tried to force himself to sleep to be ready to go in Australia.

Before Leach played his first-round match Saturday, Davenport gave her oldest child simple advice: Enjoy it, have fun and soak it all in.

“It feels so good. This was a dream for me coming in. I wanted to give myself a good chance and try and get through a couple rounds and just soak it all in because later this year, and next year is when my goal is to make deep runs and be a favourite to win these tournaments,” Leach said. “This year, I didn't have many expectations, but I still really wanted to do well, and it feels so good.

“The Grand Slams are the nicest tournaments. Having ball kids and automated line calling, it makes it so much easier to just go and play. And then not to mention, seeing my mom's name and face on the champions list. I'm just like, ‘Oh, man, this is crazy. It's so cool.’”

Davenport lost in the final of the 1992 Australian Open girls’ singles event to Joanne Limmer. She told Jagger to beat that performance.

“They've been staying up late to call me and they stayed up to watch the match today. They both do so much to help me be successful,” Leach said. “They've given me every chance possible to be good at the sport and give me the best chance to succeed. So it means so much to me, but it means a lot to them too, which is what makes the whole the whole journey possible for me. I don't think they could sleep if they wanted to!”