The Ascent of Alex Kiefer: From Walk-on to UVA Tennis Royalty
Oct 23, 2023
Florida has always been a powerhouse when it comes to tennis talent, with numerous academies and tournaments that have churned out top players. But every so often, a story emerges that stands out, not because of immediate triumphs, but due to resilience, determination, and sheer will power. One such story is that of Alex Kiefer who moved to South Florida when he was 13 and trained with coach Luis Nascimiento.
Hailing from the University Sports Program, Kiefer’s initial trajectory seemed uncertain. Compared to many of his peers, Alex wasn’t immediately thrust into the limelight at the University of Virginia (UVA). Instead, his journey began on the sidelines.
Beginnings at Kalamazoo
Andres Pedroso, the men’s tennis coach and director of the tennis program at UVA, reminisced about his first encounter with Alex at Kalamazoo, Michigan, the USTA National Boys 18s and 16s site. Pedroso recalls being struck by Alex’s professionalism, both during and after matches. It was a quality that would serve Alex well in the ensuing years.
Above: UVA men's tennis coach Andres Pedroso. Photo credit: Virginia Athletic Communications.
Pedroso, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Coach of the Year the past two seasons, is a Florida native who played high school tennis at Ransom-Everglades in Miami. He was coached by the talented Robert Gomez, the director of tennis at the Biltmore Tennis Center, Coral Gables, and is the new director of the Junior Orange Bowl Tennis Championships. Fernando Maynetto in Naples played a crucial role in Pedroso’s tennis upbringing. As a seasoned player with four years at Duke, Pedroso’s endorsement holds significant weight. And he was unequivocal about Alex’s potential.
Rise to Prominence
Fast forward to 2023, after two years of perseverance and hard work, Alex made significant strides in both singles and doubles, becoming instrumental in UVA’s journey to the NCAA Division I title for the second year in a row. His transformation was noted by Pedroso, who observed Alex’s transition to a more aggressive and authentic style of play.
Above: UVA men's tennis captain Alex Kiefer. Photo credit: Virginia Athletic Communications.
In his third year, he not only earned a pivotal spot in UVA’s championship-winning lineup but was also unanimously voted as team captain. An incredible feat for someone who, just a couple of years earlier, wasn’t even in the starting lineup. His leadership transcended vocal contributions. Alex led by example, mentoring and guiding his teammates through thick and thin.
Alex Kiefer Speaks
Recently, in an interview, Alex Kiefer shed light on his extraordinary journey.
“It’s never easy coming into a competitive environment like UVA. Especially when there are so many talents around. But the University culture is all about growth. I had immense trust in Coach Pedroso, and over time, we’ve built a bond that goes beyond just tennis,” Alex said.
Above: Kiefer rips a backhand. Photo credit: Virginia Athletic Communications.
He added, “While the initial days were challenging, it was about pushing through, believing in the process and my abilities. Being named team captain was a surreal moment for me. I owe a lot to my teammates who believed in me every step of the way.”
Alex on College Selection and Transition
Alex confessed that the initial college recruitment process was unfamiliar to him. However, his choice to join UVA was based on more than just the institution’s reputation. The genuine bonds he formed with his teammates and the excellent coaching staff made the decision easier. This supportive environment was key in helping him transition from junior to college tennis, where he had to adjust to the amplified crowd pressure and adrenaline of college matches.
The Championship Moment
Describing the NCAA Championship final against Ohio State, Alex recounts a match filled with intense emotions, strategy, and camaraderie. Stealing the doubles point from their rivals and navigating through his singles match, the moment when UVA clinched the title is etched in his memory, a culmination of unseen hard work.
Above: Keifer celebrates the big moment. Photo credit: Virginia Athletic Communications.
A Message for the Future
Alex’s journey at UVA is more than just about tennis. It’s a testament to what it means to be part of a team.
“The more you give to your team, if the culture is right, the more the team is going to give back,” Pedroso said, citing Kiefer as the prime example.
A Rocky Start
Despite impressing during internal team competitions in his first year, Alex had a rough start. Adapting to indoor play and facing stiff competition meant that Alex didn’t immediately find himself in the starting lineup. Yet, in a testament to his character, he reached out to Coach Pedroso, seeking understanding and guidance rather than expressing resentment.
“He asked me about my decision,” Pedroso recalled. The two didn’t see eye to eye on everything, but that conversation laid the groundwork for mutual respect. Even when not in the spotlight, Alex’s commitment never wavered.
Guiding Dreams: The Mission of USP
Alex’s story is not just a testament to his hard work and perseverance but also to the foundational support that University Sports Program (USP) offers. USP is more than just an intermediary; it’s a compass, guiding young talents towards their best possible future.
Above: Keifer raises his fist in victory with teammates. Photo credit: Virginia Athletic Communications.
At its core, USP is committed to ensuring every student finds a university where they can truly thrive, both academically and athletically. They work tirelessly, understanding that each student’s journey is personal and that every dream is unique. For parents anxious about their child’s future, for students eager to find their ideal collegiate match, and for athletes hungry for an opportunity to make their mark in college sports, USP is the beacon of hope. Alex Kiefer’s success is but one shining example of the incredible outcomes that emerge when passion meets guidance. The future is bright, and the possibilities are limitless with USP in your corner.
Photo credits: Virginia Athletic Communications. Source: This narrative emerged from two insightful interviews. Jim Martz, the Florida Tennis editor, delved deep into Andres Pedroso’s perspective on Alex’s transformative journey. Additionally, a heartfelt conversation with Alex Kiefer himself was conducted by Thomas Anderson, the CEO & Founder of the University Sports Program (USP), revealing the emotions and motivations behind Kiefer’s rise to prominence. Aspiring tennis players across Florida and beyond can take inspiration from Alex’s story. In a sport often dominated by individual glories, Alex Kiefer stands out as a beacon for the power of perseverance, team spirit, and the belief that hard work and commitment will, eventually, pay off.