Auburn's Nicholas Heng prepares for Pro Circuit Event
For our complete coverage of the USTA Southern Pro Circuit $15K Event, click here.
Nicholas Heng, a Auburn redshirt player, won a wild card into the USTA Southern Pro Circuit $15K Event to be played in Huntsville, Ala., May 22-28. Heng, who lives in nearby Madison, trained at the tournament site, the Athletic Club Alabama. Heng was the recipient of th 2022 USTA Southern DeWitt Redgrave III Junior Achievement Award.
Heng was interviewed by USTA Southern Senior Manager, Communications Ron Cioffi. Interview was edited for length and clarity.
Ron Cioffi: So, tell me a little bit about being at Auburn. Did you start in the fall or spring, or when did you start?
Nicholas Heng: I decided to redshirt this year. So I wasn't really competing with the team or anything, but mainly just training with them and getting to see what colleges is like.
RC: If you hadn't been a redshirt, what would you be thinking about competing with those guys?
NH: It's a special group of guys. I I really do like the guys. It's lot of really, really driven guys. Competing has been really valuable for me and being learned how college tennis works.
RC: Talk about being a part of that environment.
NH: It's completely different because you you've always got something on your plate. Like so like every day it's like wake up and then we'll have like track and then you go straight into classes. It's just for me it was a big transition. It was tough. Really at the beginning, but being a tennis player, I think a lot of tennis players have less issues because a lot of them are homeschooled and it already deal with time management and stuff like that. … The training environment is completely different. It's way more intense. Everything just like has a lot more value to it.
RC: For next year do you figure you'll be playing on the team or what are you hoping for.
NH: Yeah, so next year, I get to compete. The only difference was when I was redshirting was I just couldn't compete, but I could still travel with the team. ... Yeah, we've got a good team. I'm hoping I can be a starter but never really know about things are because could get a transfer. But all I can really do is just keep working and keep doing my best and see where I end up.
RC: How do you do against the number six guy? Are you have you how your matches against him or your practices?
NH: Our situation on our team is really complicated because we've got probably seven or eight guys that are all around the same level. And for me being a freshman. I guess I would probably start a little bit lower. I've actually played like our number one, Tyler (Stice). And I like I beat him in a tournament. But there's also another day we're in practice that place someone like Spencer (Gray) and you could say, “Well, he doesn't really start,” but he's like absolutely taught me in practice.
RC: Thanks for playing in the USTA Southern Playoff Series and gaining a wild card into the Pro Circuit event.
NH: So yeah, I played the Wild Card Tournament in Jackson (Miss.). And well it was like a the WTN tournament I've never really had experience playing a WTN tournament. For me, it was kind of a good change of pace.
RC: . Did you find out was you have tough competition or relatively easy? How did you you feel with that competition?
NH: I would say I felt pretty confident that I would just (get a wild card) on paper. I was the 1 seed, so I felt pretty confident that I could get to the finals. But the other kid, Eli Stephenson that I played in the final, very good player. He’s going to play at Kentucky next year. I was very worried about him, but when the draw came out, I saw Vince Rettke. I played him in the quarters and me and him grew up in the same suburb of Huntsville, which is Madison. … He's been like almost like an idol for me. So to play him in the quarter was like, “Oh, shoot. Like this is, this is not easy. Like this is Is a hard draw.” So it was it was definitely more than I expected.
RC: You're playing on clay in Huntsville. So how much have you played on clay? How are you preparing for that tournament?
NH: So, ever since the playoff series tournament, I pretty much just mainly been trying to play on the clay. … I’m just playing on the clay as much as I can just in preparation for the tournament because It's a huge tournament for me. Main draw wild card, chance to get a ATP point. So, I'm really excited. … I'm trying to do my best to prepare for it. So a lot of days on the clay,
RC: Some people get a lot more out of being on clay to have more topspin or can slide better. How does your game on hard courts compared to your clay game?
NH: I've got quite a lot of confidence on the clay, I would say. My level on clay can be higher than on hard. Which is kind of weird because growing up in the United States, we mainly just play on the hard courts. When I was around 10 or so, I went and trained in Spain. So, I was able to kind of learn a little bit, how to play a clay, and I think my game style just played pretty physical, trying to try to find the forehand. I think that really benefits me when it comes to playing on the clay. … You know, some other guys are better at taking balls on the rise, but I'm better at just like letting it sit back a little bit and just ripping from the back which is good for me on the clay. I would say, overall, my game on the clay as an American is pretty high. … If I play, you know, a guy from from Europe, or from Spain or from anywhere in South America, where those guys like seven years (old), you know, how to play on the play.
RC: I'm sure you've looked at the entry list. Any thoughts about some of the players you see on on there? Do you know any of them?
NH: I thought like Tennys Sandgren was signed up and I was like “That's incredible!” But, at this point you know at any futures level, I'm not really worried about who signed up. I'm just gonna try and do what I can because at every tournament I mean there's so many good players. It's like even in the qualities, too. Like I'm just looking at the entry list and there's not like a single person I would say is like, “Oh, I'm gonna win that match.” It's just It's very unknown when it comes to playing like a $15K because I could very easily lose like first round. So, I'm just gonna do what I can in my power just to give myself the best chance.
RC: How much have you played at the Athletic Club Alabama?
NH: Yeah, so it's in Huntsville and I go and train there every time I'm in Huntsville. That's the club I grew up playing on all the time. I'm very familiar with the courts. When I go and play, there's gonna be a lot of people that I know that that are probably going to come and watch. So, it'll be a really special experience.