WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Tennis or pickleball? It’s the question of the summer for many wanting to get outside and be active.

Courtesy: Jay Devilliers

For Jay Devilliers, a former Wichita State University tennis player, the question isn’t an easy answer.

“I never thought I was going to play pickleball,” explained Devilliers. “I was too cool and too good to play pickleball. I was like, I am a tennis player. That is not for me.”

For most of his life, Devilliers played tennis. He was born in France and left for Spain at 13 years old to train to become a professional tennis player.

Unfortunately, Devilliers suffered a lower back injury, so he decided to take the college route.

“I had many different schools that offered me a scholarship, but I took the one that offered me the best, and it was Wichita State,” said Devilliers.

So where does pickleball come in?

Courtesy: Jay Devilliers

After graduation, Devilliers started looking for jobs in Wichita and Kansas City.

“An opportunity opened up as a pickleball director at Chicken N Pickle. I definitely had to learn how to play pickleball if I was going to be the director,” said Devilliers. “I started playing and playing more, then competing, and one thing led to another.”

Devilliers turned pro in 2019, but his breakthrough came in 2021.

Now Devilliers, also known as The Flying Frenchman, is ranked fifth in men’s singles, seventh in men’s doubles, and eighth in men’s mixed doubles.

“My goal is not to be satisfied with where I am,” explained Devilliers. “The sport is getting bigger and bigger. More challengers are coming in, so my goal is to just stay there and get better, hopefully.”

The only way to improve your ranking is to play more tournaments and earn more points.

“I am traveling 30 weeks a year just to play pickleball,” said Devilliers.

Travel is a must for pro athletes to gain exposure and earn more money, but the rewards still fall short compared to their victories.

“We are still chasing more sponsorship and more opportunities to get better…so I think we know it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

And Devilliers hopes it’s also only a matter of time before pickleball reaches the biggest stage of all – the Olympics.