When Loren Byers was 17, he won the USTA Level 3 National Tennis Championship in Arizona. This win helped Byers gain recognition nationwide and he eventually rose through the national ranks.
“The person I beat in my last match was pretty well ranked, which helped my ranking,” Byers said. “It was great to say I won a national level three.”
On the flight home, Byers sat next to KDKA’s Bob Pompeani, which was even more exciting for him. He said Pompeani recently reached out to him on Twitter and sent him words of encouragement.
It was a huge achievement for Byers to win the prestigious tournament, but that was just the start. Fast forward to 2022, and Byers is now set to compete in his first professional tennis tournament at a USTA Pro Tour event.
Byers recently won the Pittsburgh Pro Circuit Wildcard Tournament at Mt. Lebanon, qualifying for his first professional tournament, scheduled for Tuesday at the Mt. Lebanon Tennis Center.
“I had just finished my college season in May and had actually taken a few weeks off just for a little mental break. I needed it, and then I trained really hard for a few weeks before this tournament,” Byers said. “I knew this would be my best opportunity to participate in a professional event. I just strapped in and ended up winning the tournament.
There has been a lot of preparation for the tournament in a short time. Byers was in the gym two and a half hours a day and trained on the field for another three hours.
Byers also had success outside of the tournament. He plays for Penn State and had a productive first season, going 17-10 in singles play.
Byers wore a redshirt in 2020-21, but in 2021-22 he won nine of his first 10 singles matches, which included the fall and spring semesters.
“My freshman year I put on a red shirt because of Covid because we didn’t know if we were going to have a season so I just stayed home to save tuition and trained with my coaches here,” Byers said. “For my first year, I just expected to have a winning record and try to help the team as best I could.”
The Nittany Lions finished 13-14 and lost in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament after a lineout incident against No. 10 Indiana. Nonetheless, Byers won his game from the No. 4 position, beating Vikash Singh.
While adapting to Big Ten tennis, Byers noted that there was a huge competitive difference between the college and high school levels.
“It’s a major leap. Anyone who wants to play at this level, it’s just not easy,” Byers said. “You have to spend your time like any other sport on and off the pitch. You have to make sure your mind is right and your body is right.
Byers ranked 46th nationally and No. 2 in Pennsylvania State after high school. He was a five-star recruit. Byers went to the 21st Century Cyber Charter School to help with his travels to USTA tournaments.
During his senior season, Byers played tennis for Greensburg Salem and won his first three games, but the rest of the season was canceled due to the pandemic.
Byers credits much of his success to his father, Alex Byers, who was a professional squash and racquetball player.
“We have a little alley behind our garage, and we’d make a little net out of it and play against each other since I was 6,” Byers said. “I was always hitting with my dad in the alley and hitting balls on my hallway wall, so that’s how I started.”
Byers realizes that his professional dreams could not have been realized without his parents. He is eternally grateful and says the two pushed him the hardest.
“I couldn’t have been where I am right now without my mom (Rachel) and my dad. My mom gave up her job as a physical therapist to raise me and make sure I developed properly with tennis,” Byers said. “My father supported me financially. He’s the one making all the money, so without that, I wouldn’t be anywhere.
Rashid Hassan and Yussuf Hassan also helped train Byers. Byers said his performance was taken to the next level after practicing with them.
Now, as he prepares for his first professional event, Byers realizes the challenges that can come from a high-caliber tournament. He trains as much as he can and he plays in Harrisburg in a men’s open tournament.
“I’m just trying to prepare more for the tournament because we talked about high school to college level, but this college level to professional level is a big leap,” Byers said. “I just play on the pitch for a few hours a day and off the pitch as well, trying to prepare the tournament for this professional event.”
Byers wants to accomplish a lot more goals. Collegially, he wants to improve his record and eventually wants to make it to the NCAA team and individual tournaments.
Professionally, he wants to continue competing in professional tournaments as he seeks to gain experience at the USTA Pro Tour level.
“After college I want to compete on the pro circuit, and this upcoming tournament will give me a taste and show me what I need to work on,” Byers said.