Nicholas Heng Advances To Quarterfinals At USTA Boys National Clay Championships

Nicholas Heng (photo:

DELRAY BEACH, Fla., July 15, 2022 (USTA Press Release by Steve Dorsey)

There are some rivalries in sports that can take on a bitter tone, particularly among fans. Think Red Sox-Yankees in baseball or Ohio State-Michigan in college football. But there’s also many somewhat-heated rivalries that nonetheless generate mutual respect for each other in the competitive arena.

Nicholas Heng of Madison, Ala., is very familiar with both. Most of his family are lifelong University of Alabama fans, but starting this fall they will be pulling, at least to some degree, for instate rival Auburn,, where Heng will be attending on a tennis scholarship.

“A lot of my cousins also ended up going to Auburn, and we were all like, ‘wow, I can’t believe you turned like that,’” said Heng, who now finds himself on the other side of the War Eagle-Crimson Tide rivalry fence.

On Thursday, Heng found himself on the opposite side of the net facing none other than his doubles playing partner – Cooper Woestendick of Olathe, Kan. – with a berth in the singles quarterfinals of the USTA Boys 18-and-under National Clay Court Championships on the line. Heng would emerge with a 7-5, 6-4 win against Woestendick to earn the Baptist Health Orthopedic Care Boys 18s Player of the Day.

“We’re hard competitors but we’re also very respectful toward each other, so it was never really like a get-in-your-face match,” said Heng, who has won three of his four singles matches this week in straight sets. “But we competed hard against each other.”

Despite feeling good about advancing to Friday’s quarterfinals, Heng – a finalist here last year in the 18s Clay Court Championships – had some mixed emotions following the win against Woestendick after the two of them lost their doubles match Wednesday, dropping a 10-4 third-set tiebreaker.

“I feel pretty bad because honestly I didn’t play the best tennis (Wednesday),” Heng said of his performance in doubles, feeling he let down his partner. “I honestly kind of missed every ball in the third set tiebreak and then I had to play him today, so I kind of just like screwed him over twice. I did not play well yesterday and I felt really bad. It was not good doubles on my end…He’s a very forgiving guy, so we’ve never had issues with stuff like that, but I still felt very bad. I apologized so many times.”

The only silver lining about losing in doubles, from Heng’s perspective, is that now he needs only solely concentrate on singles going forward, beginning Friday morning when he faces No. 5 seed Kabeer Kabasi of Houston, Texas, in one of the four quarterfinal matches at the Delray Beach Tennis Center.

“It’s quite nice not having to worry about doubles because it’s such a physical tournament. This is the first day I’ve had only one match. It’s really nice, especially when the heat index is over 100 (degrees),” said the No. 4 seed Heng, runner-up in 18s last year here. “Last year I didn’t play doubles and it really worked out for me. I lost to Ryan Colby (last year here), who also didn’t play doubles. He’s No. 4 at USC now and playing very well.”

Heng, who plans to eventually study law following a potential career in professional tennis, said his father was anxious to tour Delray’s Atlantic Avenue and maybe visit the beach Thursday night, taking advantage of the first lengthy free time they’ve had here this week. But Heng, make no mistake, will have his mind mostly on his impending quarterfinal match against Kabasi, who was selected the 18s Player of the Day on Wednesday but whom has never faced Heng on the court.

“It should be a good match,” Heng said. “I’m expecting a good battle.”

The South Florida BMW Centers Boys 16s Player of the Day is Ilyas Fahim of Barboursville, Va., following his 7-5, 6-1 victory against Evan Burnett of Woodside, Calif.

Fahim said clay is actually his favorite surface, and he has been extended to a third set only once in his five singles matches this week. He said he “made some adjustments…(and) just tried to keep him moving” in the second set of his match against Burnett.

“I can run around my backhand easier and hit forehands and I get to hit high,” Fahim said when asked why his game is more suited to clay.

Fahim, who last month won a 16-and-under Sectional title in Virginia Beach, Va., said he arrived in South Florida with the mindset that he is capable of making it to the finals on Sunday in Delray Beach. His biggest challenge so far, he said, has been adjusting to the South Florida heat and humidity in July. So far, he seems to have navigated that challenge.

“It’s a much bigger tournament and there’s a lot more players with different game styles,” Fahim said. “And it’s really humid here. But every day I feel fresh when I wake up. It would mean a lot to get to the finals.”

But first he needs to get past fellow Virginian Stiles Brockett of Fairfax, Va., who only started playing clay court tournaments last year. Brockett was the BMW 16s Player of the Day on Wednesday and won a three-setter Thursday to earn the spot opposite Fahim in the quarterfinals.