Article by Laura Masbruch
Reese Brantmeier and her doubles partner, Kimmi Hance from Los Angeles recently won the G18 doubles championship at the Orange Bowl. The Orange Bowl is a junior international tournament that is at the level of the junior US, French, and Australian Open. The tournament took place in Plantation, Florida, and brought the top juniors from all over the world, including many of the top 10 world ranked. The trophy was an engraved Tiffany bowl filled with oranges.
Reese’s mom, Becky Brantmeier, has been traveling with sixteen-year-old Reese this fall since the dorms in which the players would normally stay are closed due to the pandemic. During an interview earlier this week, Reese commented that it has just been her and mom in a one room hotel room for quite a while now. Becky stated, “Most of the junior and pro tournaments have been getting cancelled, so we were crossing our fingers that this tournament would actually happen. They required all players and their one guest to be COVID tested to compete, and there were very strict protocols in place each day. The players were only allowed to be unmasked during play, and they were constantly being reminded while playing doubles that even on court they were not to be within 6 feet of each other. This year the matches were played with only the chair judge, one guest per player, and a few other players in attendance for each match.”
When the shutdowns for COVID-19 began in March, Reese found herself at home in rural Whitewater doing fitness workouts and hitting balls against a cement wall at the Esker tennis courts on campus. The tennis world remained completely shut down for four or five months. As things began to open up in June, Reese was able to play one at a time outdoors with members of the UW-Whitewater Men’s Tennis Team who were in town hoping to have a season of their own. The facility where Reese trains in Orlando, Florida, finally reopened as June became July, and she was able to return to their outdoor courts, where she has been ever since. The tennis facility continues to operate at a limited capacity, allowing only two or three people in the gym at once, and with many amenities, such as the dorms and cafeteria, remaining completely closed. Only a few players Reese’s age are there now, along with the pros who live there.
Reese describes her typical day in Orlando as consisting of a two-hour workout (hitting) in the morning followed by an hour of fitness. After lunch, she returns to the courts for another two hours of tennis, and then finishes with an hour of off-court training which could include, among other things, work with a sports psychologist, visualization activities, work with a nutritionist, or media training.
No stranger to online schooling, Reese has been taking classes online at least part time since she was a student at Whitewater Middle School, and for the last three years has been a full-time JEDI student. JEDI is the virtual school run by a consortium of schools of which Whitewater Unified School District is a participant. Reese joked that some of her friends used to tell her that online school was easier, but not anymore, now that they have been experiencing it themselves. Reese typically does her school work in the hotel in the evening after a full day of tennis workouts and training sessions. She acknowledges that it’s not ideal, but she is happy with the opportunities it provides her; she knows she wouldn’t be able to travel as much as she does if she wasn’t doing school online. Reese lists giving up in-person school as one of the sacrifices she needed to make to pursue her tennis career.
Reese started playing tennis in elementary school when another family was looking for someone to carpool to Lake Geneva for tennis lessons. Up until that time, she said she had no exposure to tennis, opting for more typical Wisconsin park and rec sports offerings like volleyball and basketball. Her tennis experiences have now taken her to tournaments in China, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Canada, and Austria. She was scheduled to compete at the junior French Open and Wimbledon this year, but Wimbledon was cancelled and Reese chose not to travel to France due to the pandemic.
Injuries have been a big part of Reese’s life for the last two years. In January of 2019, the right-hander broke her right arm during a tennis workout, forcing her to take three months off. She commented that the time away from tennis made her appreciate it that much more. In November of 2019, Reese tore her tendon sheath in her left hand, forcing her to deal with additional wrist issues. The more recent injury didn’t sideline her totally; she could still play, but she couldn’t hit any backhands.
Reese considers herself more of a singles player, but she does enjoy playing doubles with her friends. She stated that she usually plays doubles to practice things for singles, and that playing doubles is less stressful than playing singles. Reese was knocked out fairly early in the singles portion of the Orange Bowl tournament; in her words, “winning doubles was a pleasant surprise.” When asked about choosing doubles partners, Reese said it is common for players to set that up on their own based on who they have met at tournaments. In the case of the Orange Bowl tournament, Reese said that she has played fairly consistently with her partner Kimmi Hance for the last two years, so they are very comfortable playing together. This was Kimmi’s last tournament before heading to college.
Making plans for the future is a big part of Reese’s current life as well. Her long term plans are to play professionally, but she is currently entertaining scholarship offers from a variety of universities. Reese is at the age where most players make the decision between pros and college, but COVID has made that difficult, not allowing her to play the pro tournaments that she had hoped to this year. A college major is also something that provides her with multitude of possibilities as she values a variety of academic pursuits as well as art and athletics. As one of the top tennis recruits nationally in her age group, Reese has a lot of major decisions to make in the next year and is looking forward to a time when she can visit campuses in person to meet the teams and the coaches.
As for now, Reese will continue to enjoy traveling and meeting people, two of her favorite parts of her tennis experience.
Reese is the youngest of the three children of Scott and Becky Brantmeier of Whitewater. Her oldest brother Justin is a senior studying engineering at UW-Green Bay, and her brother Zach is in his second year studying computer science and philosophy at UW-Madison.
More info about the Orange Bowl tournament can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_Bowl_(tennis)