Britain to the Bluegrass: Millen Hurrion's Tennis Journey
Millen Hurrion's professional tennis journey is taking shape in Lexington, Kentucky.
Hurrion, a fifth-year student from Weymouth, England, is in the midst of his final season with the University of Kentucky Men's Tennis team.
Following a 19-8 record in the 2021 season, capped off by a second-round exit in the NCAA Championships, Hurrion and the Wildcats return all but two players from last year.
"I think we're a lot deeper than last year, a lot more experienced," Hurrion said. "I don't think we have the excuse anymore of being a young team."
UK's experience comes from a 12-man roster, seven of whom are upperclassmen.
Including Hurrion and Liam Draxl, the reigning 2021 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Player of the Year, four Wildcats were ranked in the 2021 ITA Singles Top 125.
Hurrion and the Cats feel that they have the star power and leadership necessary to reach the top of the mountain come the end of their 2022 campaign.
"That's all we want to do, is win a championship," Hurrion said. "This is my last go, we have another fifth-year senior ... This is our last go in college and I think we're ready to do it."
From Great Britain to the Bluegrass, much of the 22-year-old's life has been spent with a racket in hand. Hurrion recalls beginning his tennis journey around the age of three in kindergarten, back home in England.
Tennis wasn't exactly easy at the start for Hurrion, however.
"Really, I wasn't the most athletic kid," he said. "Quite a few other kids had better hand-eye coordination than me."
Hurrion holds the title of team captain for Kentucky, a role that is not lost on the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Englishman.
"The first thing is off the court, being there for the guys. I've kind of made sure that they know whatever they need, whether it's tennis-related or not, that I'm there for them," Hurrion said. "I think a happy team is the most important thing. You can't play well unless everything else is sorted."
Along with supporting his teammates away from tennis, Hurrion knows that his leadership as a veteran will pilot the future captains of Kentucky tennis in the right direction.
"Being accountable and showing my experience. This is my fifth season now, some of the guys are in their second or third," he said.
Growing up, Hurrion would work on his craft repeatedly, developing a stronger bond with the sport along the way.
"I just remember, it was really rewarding once I started to get the hang of it, and I kind of fell in love with it that way," he said.
Hurrion's talent and his love for the game brought him to the United States in 2017 to pursue the collegiate tennis world and an education. Kentucky was not his first landing spot.
Boiling Springs, North Carolina, hosted the first two years of Hurrion's collegiate career at Gardner Webb University.
Two Big South Conference first team selections and 52 victories in singles and doubles play highlighted a solid beginning to his college tenure in the Tar Heel State. Following the 2018-2019 season, it was time for a change.
After touring Kentucky, Hurrion knew he found his new home away from home.
"Honestly, it was just the vibe here when I visited," he said. "I think the team atmosphere we have here is something really special, and I definitely looked for that."
UK's coaching staff, led by Head Coach Cedric Kauffmann and assistants Matthew Gordon and Peter Kobelt, played a big part in Hurrion making the jump to Kentucky.
"The coaches here, I honestly can't speak highly of enough," he said. "Cedric, Matt and Pete, I think you'll never find better coaches in those positions."
If the team atmosphere and coaching staff weren't enough, the city of Lexington was a cherry on top.
"I love Lexington because I'm not from a big city back home. I'm from a small town so I didn't want to go somewhere that was kind of too crazy and too much going on," he said. "I love it here. It's a cool city."
Weymouth, a seaside town in Dorset county in southwest England, has a population of just over 50,000, about one-sixth the size of Lexington.
Hurrion still misses some things about his hometown.
"One thing I like better about Weymouth is I live by the beach, so that's pretty cool," Hurrion said.
What Lexington lacks in sand, it makes up for in entertainment and gastronomy.
"In Lexington, there's just a lot more stuff to do. You know, like The Local Taco," he said. "I love the little food and coffee spots around here, it's a cool place."
Hurrion is in his third and final season with Kentucky. Through his first two years, he peaked as high as No. 32 in the ITA singles rankings while appearing in the 2021 NCAA Singles Championship as an at-large selection.
Following the 2021 spring season, Hurrion made noise on the professional circuit, reaching the final of a 25K tournament in France as a part of the International Tennis Federation's Men's World Tennis Tour. The tournament run is what Hurrion recalled as one of the defining moments of his young career.
"I came all the way through qualifying, and it was one of my first tournaments on the tour, so that was really special for me," he said.
When it comes to college matches or singles tournaments, Hurrion is all-in on the collegiate experience.
"I honestly prefer the college environment just because there's nothing like it," he said. "I think when people come and experience a college match for the first time, it's so different to what their perception is. Tennis is such a gentleman's game, and it's very quiet. Then you come to a college match and it's a kind of thrown out the window and it's all very rowdy."
Hurrion now has one final season to enjoy the unique environment that is college tennis. He and his fellow Wildcats help create a rowdy experience of their own at home court, the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center, every chance they get.
"After last year we did pretty good at home and made it a tough place for other teams to come here. So I think we've established that throughout the country," he said.
At the end of the 2022 season, Hurrion will graduate from UK in May with a degree in business management, then it's right back to the professional circuit.
Kentucky is a pitstop in Hurrion's journey, albeit an important one. His time in Lexington has only bolstered his hopes of succeeding as a pro.
"I really want to make it in the tennis world," he said. "I'm dedicated on and off the court to make it as a professional, and I believe I can do it, otherwise I wouldn't be here."