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Claycourt Championship Week
Heng Rises to the Challenge to Capture Boys 14s Title

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Before the five-minute warmup for the final of the USTA Boys 14s National Clay Court Championships, second-seeded John Kim playfully snatched the racket of third-seeded Nicholas Heng.

Boys 14s Singles Champion Nicholas Heng
© Alan Bogatay

But in the end of the friendly final, it was Heng snatching the gold ball from Kim with a come-from-behind 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 victory played under sweltering conditions at the Jimmy Evert Tennis Center.

A year ago, an inexperienced Heng was playing in his first national tournament at the USTA 14s Hardcourts in Mobile, Alabama, not far from his Madison home, where he knocked off three seeds, including the top-seeded Griffin Daehnke, 7-5, 6-1, before falling in the round-of-16 to eventual bronze winner Andrew Chang.

“That opened my eyes,’’ said Po Heng, Nicholas’ father and No. 1 fan. “He proved me wrong. Now a year later he’s gone from about 900th to third. It’s crazy.’’

Papa Heng made that comment early in the first set. By the end of the match, Po, who left a war-torn Cambodia before Nicholas was born in Huntsville, Alabama, was wiping tears of pride from his face as the two boys exchanged a handshake and bro-hug at the net.

“I was very excited but relieved, too,’’ said Nicholas, who trains at the Tucker Academy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and also with coach Eddie Jacques - the 1983 USTA 18s national clay court champion - at Athletic Club in Huntsville, Alabama.

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Page updated on Thursday, September 23, 2021
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