Racquetball prodigy Kaiser takes over state No. 1 ranking

Ava Kaiser scrimmages with her father, Rick, at Lifetime Fitness in Fridley.

Ava Kaiser, Lake Elmo teen racquetball ace, recently achieved a longtime goal of being ranked No. 1 overall in the state, after placing second in singles and first in doubles in 16-and-under at nationals.

Kaiser, 16, took over the top spot from Vallana Perrault of Zimmerman, who had held it for about 20 years. Kaiser had been No. 2 for two years.

“It means a lot. So much. I have worked for this for a long time,” said the Mahtomedi High School junior-to-be, who will now likely be top-seeded for Minnesota events.

Kaiser beat Perrault in Sept. 2019, but had not faced her since then, due in large part to Covid cancelations, and in racquetball’s system of ranking players, you have to beat the No. 1 twice to supplant her.

However, it counts if you beat someone ranked higher nationally than that player, which Kaiser accomplished at the USA Racquetball Junior Championships in Des Moines, July 14-18. That was when she beat her friend and doubles partner Kareena Mathew of Oregon, in the 16U semifinals, 15-9, 15-8. 

Kaiser then lost in the finals to Naomi Ros, a former Team Mexico player now living in San Antonio 15-5, 15-12. Kaiser and Mathew were doubles champions, capped by a finals 15-4, 15-0 rout of California twins Arya and Esha Cyril, a team that’s beaten them in the past.

Playing in national tournaments since age seven, Kaiser has nabbed 11 state and national titles in singles and doubles, along with seven bronzes in world competitions (three in singles, four in doubles). Those figures are estimated by her mother Rhonda, who does her best to keep track. Ros beat Kaiser once before, in a close match when they were in 12Us.

Kaiser’s current national ranking is 36th, or 64th if you count foreign players competing in the USA, where most of the professionals compete. 

Next for Kaiser is the U.S. Open at Target Center, starting Aug. 30, where she will move up the pro ranks for the first time.

“I will be a little nervous, but I’m confident I can hold my own,” she said.

Racquetball has always been her lone sport. She said she likes tennis and swimming, too, and would like to go out for the school teams, but both are fall sports, and the racquetball schedule is heavy in the fall.

Kaiser started at about age six, tagging along with her father, Rick. Back then, there were only boys to play against, and they always beat her.

“I hated losing to boys! I told myself, one day — one day — I’ll show you. And that day arrived,” she beamed. “They don’t beat me now.”

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