NEW PROVIDENCE, Pa. — On a beach, nearly eight years ago, New Providence’s Anthony Kirchner was playing paddle ball with his family.
A stranger walking by took notice of the then four-year-old’s skills and said to the family that they should put enroll him in tennis lessons.
Since that moment it's been one heck of a ride for Anthony and his family.
A ride that features the constant thud of a tennis ball hitting a wall in the backyard of a Lancaster County farm. But this sound is more than an average childhood game, this is where he finds his toughest opponent.
"My mindset is hit above the line, and I can't beat the wall yet, but I always think I can,” Anthony said with a smile.
Ask anyone who knows tennis, 12-year-old Kirchner has a special talent.
"The first time my coach said, ‘He has something special.’ From there on, I just loved it playing the sport. I have been really good at it," he told FOX43.
William Hill is a professional tennis instructor and the current director of tennis at Hillcrest Tennis and Field Sports in Exeter Township, Berks County.
He spends a lot of time on the court with Kircher.
"The cliché is [the] 'sky's the limit.' But for someone who has all the things working at full speed, professional number one is not out of the cards for him, if everything remains consistent. At least [he has] a good run at being a professional."
Kirchner is exceptional between the lines. Over the past year he's brought home three major tournaments, including the famed Little MO in Texas, and International Little MO in Florida, and just secured his first national level three win, to become the top-ranked 11-year-old in the country and one of the best in the world.
He says that he has found a simple formula to win.
"You have to train work hard, have patience and have fun," he said.
His dad, James just sits back and admires his son.
"I don't play tennis, for me this is a new experience and I just have a lot of fun watching him. I don't coach him. I am just his dad and I am blessed to have him for my son," he told FOX43.
Blessed, is how the Kirchner family views Anthony’s successes. They value and appreciate every experience. For them, winning and tennis is not the end all be all. You have to do it the right way and Anthony has certainly done that.
Win or lose, their son does it all with class, as he has multiple sportsmanship awards, including recognition from the U.S. Tennis Association in January.
"I have so much heart and I believe in myself,” Anthony explained. “I never get upset. So, no matter what-- pretend I would lose-- I shake their hands and say 'great job.' We are having the best time like having friends."
His dad couldn’t be prouder.
"When you earn people's trust and respect and have good core values and ethics, that is a success," he said. "When people want to lift you up that is when you know you are winning, as a person. The tennis accolades are fantastic but what’s after tennis is what is more important.”
This attitude has Anthony's coaches believing the tennis world is what Anthony wants it to be.
"No matter where his journey takes him I feel there is nothing limiting him except for himself,” says Hill.
All this coming from a wall in the backyard, the hard courts at Hillcrest, RCW Club in Lancaster and, yes, the family room while just playing five hours a week.
"I believed it and I knew I had a special gift and I was going to use it to my full potential," said Anthony.
And always, aim to beat the wall.