It didn’t take long for Penn men’s tennis’ senior star Kyle Mautner to become an integral part of the program — as a freshman, Mautner immediately rose to the top of the Quakers’ lineup and earned first team All-Ivy recognition — but he’s still come a long way over the course of his four years representing the Red and Blue.
Mautner grew up in Greenwich, Conn., where he played hockey until deciding at the age of 12 to focus on tennis full-time. Despite switching sports so long ago, he recognizes that his hockey experience contributed to his tennis game.
“Being able to have good balance on the tennis court translated over [from hockey],” Mautner said. “In general, it was tough on your lungs and got you into really good shape.”
Mautner’s embrace of and commitment to tennis, though, was very much a show of his appreciation for the sport’s individual nature. In order to garner All-Ivy awards at the No. 1 singles spot as Mautner has, one has to be comfortable with being alone in competition.
So comfortable was Mautner in that solitary, competitive environment that he played his way to a No. 17 ranking in the Class of 2015, including the top spot in the state of Connecticut. Throughout that rise to national notoriety, Mautner had Penn on his radar.
“I’ve known [Penn coach David Geatz] since I was 12 years old because he used to teach at a club in my hometown, Greenwich, and since he lived in the Northeast area of the United States, he’d come to tournaments a lot and he kept that rapport going,” Mautner said. “Around sophomore or junior year of high school, I made a verbal commitment with him that I wanted to come to Penn.”
Choosing and attending Penn provided much needed direction and assistance to Mautner, who for so long lived a life that in many ways revolved around tennis.
“My dad pushed me [toward Penn] to try to explore a career in finance because, at that time, I had no idea what I wanted to do,” Mautner said. “I was just super interested in playing tennis and the prospect of playing professionally, but he helped me make a more informed decision.”
Once he was at school, however, Mautner, had to deal with the challenges that come with being a freshman thrust into the spotlight at the No. 1 singles slot. While at practice he carried teammates’ equipment and was the team's resident 'little guy.' He faced pressure at matches to compete with and win against the best players that opposing teams had to offer.
Nevertheless, Mautner earned first team All-Ivy praise during his freshman year and tallied three wins over ranked players en route to an 11-11 record. Since then, Mautner has only grown and improved, twice more being named first team All-Ivy and becoming team captain.
Taking on a leadership role for the team has been something that the senior has enjoyed greatly. He is the lone fourth-year senior for Penn and takes pride in forging strong relationships with younger players in the same way that he was welcomed as a freshman.
“I try to give [younger players] advice whenever I can and act as a mentor figure to them,” Mautner said. “I love the guys and I think that we have our best team culture to date. That’s reflected in our results, because we’ve had a top-25 ranking this year.”
As for the rest of his senior season, Mautner knows that there’s much left for both him and his fellow Quakers to accomplish, especially with the onset of Ivy play. Individually, Mautner has his sights set on the Ivy League Player of the Year award. Last year saw him miss out on the accolade to Columbia’s Victor Pham, but that slight only adds fuel to the fire.
“I was so close last year as a finalist,” Mautner said. “I thought I should have won it, but it was close, so this year I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, and that’s what I’m striving for.”
The team’s focus centers around qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, which has proven elusive for the Red and Blue in recent years. Getting into postseason play would almost be icing on the cake for Mautner. When recalling his favorite memories with the Quakers, the senior highlighted the moments of passionate, energetic, group celebration after big wins that justify all of the work that the players put into each season.
Mautner came to Penn with loads of pressure, and while he’s exceeded expectations, he knows that there is still much to be desired as the Quakers look to make the 2018-19 season a memorable one.
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