Nicholas Heng Wins USTA Boys National Clay Court Championships


DELRAY BEACH, July 18, 2022 (USTA Press Release by Steve Dorsey)

Eight grueling days of highly competitive tennis came to an end Sunday at the USTA Boys National Clay Court Championships, with two age-group champions collecting the coveted Gold Ball after having successfully navigated numerous challenges all week that included some stifling heat and weatherrelated delays in addition to their incredibly talented foes.

Nicholas Heng of Madison, Ala., captured the 18-and-under title that barely eluded him last year when he was the runner-up, with Stiles Brockett of Fairfax, Va., adding a second Gold Ball to his trophy case after winning the 16-and-under final at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, denying Mikel Anderson the chance to celebrate winning the title in his hometown.

Their efforts earned them the Player of the Week recognition from Baptist Health Orthopedic Care for Heng and South Florida BMW Centers for Brockett. Heng also won the Gold Ball in the USTA Boys 14s National Clay Court Championships four years ago, but he said claiming it here this week was more special.

“To be able to do it again is so satisfying, it’s amazing,” said Heng, the No. 4 seed who defeated No. 2 seed Jelani Sarr of Pooler, Ga., 6-4, 6-3 Sunday, a day after ousting No. 1 seed Lucas Brown of Plano, Tex., in the semifinals. Heng, who will play for Auburn University, won six of his seven matches here in straight sets, and said he was able to handle his nerves a little better on Sunday compared to last year when he fell short in the championship match, crediting Andrew Mattek at Complete Performance for helping him deal with those gold ball match jitters.

I was so nervous and anxious last year, but this time I just kind of freed up and played my game and that’s when I’m at my best,” he said. Still, he admitted he felt a little pressure on himself going into the match against Sarr, who he also beat in their two previous meetings on clay.

“He’s got an unbelievable serve and forehand, great attacking game, so I took more of a kind of backseat role and not press all the time and be aggressive,” Heng said of his strategy against Sarr. “If I went power to power with him, he’d probably outpower me.

“The nerves, the situation, the feelings, I mean it was nuts,” Heng said. “Being in a final just feels so surreal, especially in a tournament like this. It was nervewracking, but I just tried to focus on the now…It means so much to have done a little better this year. Yesterday I got a little bit lucky, and to be able to be in this moment playing for a gold (ball), it was so unreal. It’s a massive relief. If I lost again in the final I’d probably go crazy. It will be a sweet ride back home.”

Likewise for Brockett, a 6-1, 6-3 winner against Anderson. Brockett said that he would not have believed it if he was told a few months ago that he’d be holding the coveted Gold Ball at the end of this tournament.

“I think six or seven months ago, my coaches believed in me, but if you’d told me then that I’d win this title, I wouldn’t really believe it 100 percent,” said Brockett, who didn’t start concentrating on his clay court game until about a year-andhalf ago. “It wasn’t real pretty at first. But I think in the last couple of months I’ve been making that turn.”

Brockett, a rising high school junior, had to battle back from down a set in two matches early this week, but he won his last three matches here in the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship final in straight sets. He said he was mentally prepared for whatever challenges he faced Sunday against Anderson, whom he beat in the first round at Indian Wells, Calif., earlier this year.

“I think coming in I was expecting anything, whether it was a three-hour battle or whatever,” said Brockett, whose match against Anderson was delayed nearly three hours after rain drenched the courts at the Delray Beach Tennis Center early Sunday morning. “My mindset was to just keep playing my game, do what I’ve been doing all week, just leave everything out there, and I was able to execute.”

Although Anderson was playing in a familiar venue in his hometown, Brockett said he was very appreciative of the support extended to both players Sunday by the fans in attendance, which included his father, who had to take off a couple extra days from work this week after his son continued to win.

“There were a lot of people out there today and lots of locals showing support,” Brockett said. “There was a lot ofn energy around the court and I feel like it made it so much sweeter.”

Brockett, who said he had to tape one of his ankles the past few matches after twisting it on Tuesday during doubles, also had praise for Anderson’s run here this week and said the score of Sunday’s championship match is somewhat misleading.

“I think the score doesn’t indicate how tight and physical the match was and how well he was playing,” Brockett said. “It was really pretty even. I feel like I just played some of my best tennis this week. I was lucky enough to pull through this match. I think I learned to just keep fighting when things maybe aren’t going good.”

All certainly was good Sunday for Brockett, who said he already has a resting spot for his Gold Ball, on his bedside table at home next to the one he was given for winning the Winter National Championships doubles title with playing partner Xander Barber in early January.

“I’m going to give it some company,” he said. The Gold Ball is not the only award Brockett will be packing in his bags for the trip back to Virginia. Tournament officials announced Sunday that Brockett also was selected as recipient of the USTA Sportsmanship Award for the Boys 16s tournament. The award is recognition for a player who all week exhibited sportsmanship behavior both on the court with fellow players as well as in his interaction with tournament staff, officials, peers and parents. It’s a recognition that is held in very high esteem by the numerous college coaches and scouts in attendance here this week.

2022 Main Draw results:
Boys 18s Singles: Nicholas Heng (4) d. Jelani Sarr (2), 6-4, 6-3
Boys 18s Doubles: Alexander Razeghi & Nikita Filin (7) d. Lucas Brown & Landon Ardila (1), 6-3, 5-7, 10-5
Boys 16s Singles: Stiles Brockett (17) d. Mikel Anderson (17), 6-1, 6-3
Boys 16s Doubles: Krish Gupta & Evan Burnett (15) d. Nichlas Snyder & Cole Henceroth (7), 6-4, 6-1