Paul Kilderry was the best junior tennis player I have ever seen, he was quite simply, brilliant. Paul was coached by his father Rob and by 1991 was ranked 8 in the World for juniors in singles and 4 for doubles. I had the good fortune to play on a court next to him at a junior championship in Perth and I found watching him to be rather extraordinary. I was disappointed to not play him but I got belted in the quarters of the East Fremantle Junior Championships by Christian Christensen from Sweden 3 and 2 . The Swede went on to beat Paul in the Semi's in 3 sets but the most significant aspect of the whole tournament was that Paul was from memory 12 years old at the time playing in the 16's.
I don't see that much now days because the physical difference between these age groups is huge but Paul made up for it with his technical brilliance. We all knew that this kid was going to be something else, yet it didn't really happen.
I remember vividly Kilderry losing to Thomas Enqvist of Sweden in the Semi's of the Wimbledon juniors 2 and 2, perhaps 1990. Enqvist went on to become a top ten player for the Men and reached an Australian Open Singles Final.
Paul hit a high of 138 in the World for singles in 1995 , made half a million dollars , beat Wimbledon Champion Richard Krajicek in Florida and became Pat Rafter's practice partner and travelling buddy. Paul left an impression on me however as his standard was something that I visualize in juniors when I see them play now days as a sort of bench mark.
Victor Estrella Burgos from the Dominican Republic just reached a career high of 69 this month and he made it to the third round of the US Open . He lost a match in three straight tie breakers , tough way to go out of a Slam, beaten by one of the World's biggest servers of all time Ivo Karlovic.
Victor is 34 years of age. So what's the difference between Paul Kilderry and Victor Estrella Burgos ? Paul I believe peaked at a very young age, he was in a way unfortunate to have done this , he simply failed to get any better. Victor has done things his way, peaked at an age that most players are thinking about or have already retired, he simply maintained the passion to reach his potential despite his age.
Do I think Paul still reached his potential ? Yes I do , the problem was that he reached it at an age too young to cope with the physical and mental demands of the game.
Putting it another way, Kilderry got too good, too young, he reached a height of ability that was tough to improve on as tennis is a game you get better at as you become physically and mentally stronger. Just because you are a top junior doesn't necessarily guarantee you a spot with the big boys , it's a spot you earn with experience. You can own every shot in the book as a 12 year old but by the time you are 18 you may have hit all those shots to a standard that may not have any improvement left.
Some juniors such as Agassi, Becker, Wilander, Krickstein, Arias and Chang all made the top ten after being some of the World's best juniors, these guys are a one in a million. Victor Estrella Burgos is a story of a player who every tennis player needs to take notice of as he is one who perhaps will reach his potential at age 35 or 36 depending on his fitness.
You can have the World at your feet as a tennis player at a very young age but there are no guarantees you will get any better because of the numerous reasons why the game has been labelled the toughest individual sport in the World. My buddy who I toured Europe with in '91 Brett Patten made it to World Number 1 for his age group 35-40 just recently. That's never letting go of your dream to reach your potential.
If someone was to give me an option of two profiles I would take Victor's over Paul's as much as I loved to see young Kilderry play when I was a kid. Paul had a lot of pressure on him from many people and organizations because of his ridiculous talent as a kid , tough to live up to expectations. Mr Burgos has quietly gone about his business as a tennis 'journeyman' , no pressure, just simply living the life as a Pro Tennis Player who has doubled his career earnings within the past year.
So did he leave his run too late ? Of course not. If you reach your potential it doesn't matter how old you are, if you get to a standard that you cannot possibly surpass then I think you made it as a tennis player.......