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All-Area Singles Player of the Year: Kyler Hartman, Hillcrest

Hillcrest’s Kyler Hartman poses for a portrait at the Tautphaus Park tennis courts on June 30. Hartman is the Post Register’s All-Area Singles Tennis Player of the Year. Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com

By MARLOWE HEREFORD
mhereford@postregister.com

A day without tennis is unheard of for Kyler Hartman.

The incoming Hillcrest High School junior grew up around tennis thanks to his father, Hillcrest head coach Heath Hartman, playing regularly. Kyler estimates he began playing daily at age 5, and won his first tournament at age 8.

There is no offseason, and he prefers it that way.

“I’m always playing,” he said. “I like competing against different people. It’s fun.”

That background set the foundation for his move to singles after winning last year’s 5A doubles state championship alongside 2016 Hillcrest graduate Spencer Neville. Last year’s success carried over this year, too, as he went undefeated against eastern Idaho competition en route to a 5A District 5-6 singles title and 5A state runner-up finish. The state title match winner, repeat 5A singles state champion Adam Tzeng of Eagle, was the one player to beat Kyler all season.

A year after sharing All-Area Boys Doubles Team of the Year honors with Neville, Kyler is the Post Register’s All-Area Singles Player of the Year.

Kyler has traveled to the likes of Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Montana and Nebraska for U.S. Tennis Association tournaments for much of his life. When winter arrives, he practices indoors. Of all Kyler’s experiences in tennis, Heath said his son’s first year as a Knight made a big difference in how he played as a sophomore.

“Even though he’s played in tournaments and is traveling around, it was his first time playing high school tennis,” Heath said. “You’re playing for a team. You’re more nervous. That’s one thing that helped him from last year is he’s more relaxed and confident than last year.”

A measuring stick of that progress occurred at the 32-team Capital Invitational in April in Boise, where Kyler played Tzeng for the boys 1 singles bracket title. Tzeng handed Kyler his first loss of the season, but the entire weekend helped him.

“I think he was probably surprised at Capital how well he did,” Heath said. “Once he had a good tournament up there, he had a good chance to play his best to place at state.”

Heath’s prediction proved accurate. Kyler, seeded No. 2, began the state tournament with a tough first-round draw, Mountain View’s Lucas Dibelius. Kyler had never played Dibelius before, and Heath said he anticipated it to be the toughest match until the state title match if he advanced that far. The first round match ended up being Kyler’s closest — a 7-5, 6-4 win.

Kyler said he wanted to try to win state, but he’s still pleased with taking second.

“That was my goal, top two,” Kyler said.

Since state ended, Kyler has been frequenting the courts around Idaho Falls and hitting the road for tournaments. This summer has also provided a reminder that his junior tennis season will come fast. His brother, Tegan, is an incoming Hillcrest freshman and is practicing with Heath and Kyler.

Which begs the question: will Kyler play singles or doubles next spring?

“We’ll have to see,” Kyler said.

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