***Caption/Cutline*** Madison's Nicholas Heng qualified for and made his way to the field of 16 at the USTA Southern held in Huntsville. The current player at Auburn University was highly recruited out of high school and will make his way to his sophomore season this fall. Photo: Ron Cioffi/USTA Southern

Madison Players Make USTA Southern; Nick Heng Makes Round Of 16

MADISON- The recent USTA Southern Pro Circuit Tennis Tournament was a showcase event for three players with ties to Madison as former Bob Jones star Vince Rettke, current Madison Academy player Houston Jacques and current Auburn team player Nicholas Heng made their way to the tournament held on the courts of the Athletic Club of Alabama in Huntsville.

Heng, an Auburn redshirt player, lives in Madison and attended Alabama Connections Academy, which is a home-school based institution, was the recipient of the 2022 USTA Southern DeWitt Redgrave III Achievement Award. He was highly recruited for college after being named No. 1 in the U.S. in both the 14U and 18U Jr. Tennis.

Rettke was a 2016 graduate of Bob Jones where he was a two-time AHSAA State Champion in singles play and was named the USTA Junior Player of the Year for Alabama in both 2015 and 2016. He chose to play tennis at Gonzaga where he graduated in 2020 and transferred to Alabama where he played as a graduate student through the 2020-2021 season. He currently works as a test engineer at Torch Technologies.

Jacques is a sophomore at Madison Academy and was the 2022 AHSAA State Champion in doubles play with his older brother, Parker.

Jacques won his first qualifying match 6-2, 5-7, (10-8) over Jared Thompkins (USA) before falling to Enzo Aguiard (Aus) 7-5, 6-3 and not making the singles draw.

Rettke advanced to the singles draw with qualifying wins of 6-4, 6-1 over Drew Van Orderlain (USA) and 7-6 (3), 6-4 over Evan Bynoe (USA). In the main draw, Rettke did not fare very well losing in straight sets of 6-0, 6-4 to Elijah Poritzky (USA).

As for Heng, he qualified for the main draw in a Wild Card Tournament held in Mississippi. The 5-foot-9, 150 pound 19-year old plays for the Auburn Tigers earning a scholarship in both athletics and academics as he carries a 4.65 grade point average in his studies of prelaw. He said, “My number one goal is to be a professional tennis player, but if that doesn’t work out, I can go to law school. My dream for years was to play college tennis and now that’s what I’m doing the focus will be on the professional side of tennis.”

Heng began playing tennis at age seven as both his older sister and brother hit the courts and played for both Bob Jones and James Clemens High Schools. He narrowed his choices of playing collegiate tennis to Texas, Michigan and Auburn before accepting the Tigers’ offer of a scholarship to play on The Plains. In his spare time the 12-year resident of Madison loves to read, cook, play video games and play the ukulele.

In the USTA Southern, he took down American Jose Garcia 6-4, 6-3 earning Heng his first professional ATP point and advancing to the tournament’s quarterfinals. Heng said of his first match, “I knew exactly what I wanted to do as Jose is a good friend of mine. My nerves of facing my first match went through the roof as I was physically shaking, but after I settled down and my nerves completely subsided, I had all the confidence I needed.”

“My second match was against 29-year old Roberto Cid Subervi of the Dominican Republic as he’s been ranked as high as No. 200 in the world,” said Heng. “Though he was coming back from an injury, he was very good as he played at a level I never before experienced first-hand. I ripped the ball as hard as I could in front of my family who was there in support of my efforts.”

The fourth-seeded Subervi defeated Heng 6-4, 6-4 in the tournament’s round of 16 on the clay courts of the Athletic Club of Alabama. The match was played under the club’s balcony, which was filled with an enthusiastic crowd of Heng’s family and friends as he trains at the facility, which he calls his home club. The difference in the match came down to one service break per set by Cid Subervi. Heng scored one ace, but threw in six double faults.

Heng also played in the doubles action of the USTA Southern where he teamed up with Eli Stephenson, 18, who will play for the Kentucky Wildcats next season. They’ve played junior tournaments together and were eager to step onto the clay courts for the professional side of tennis versus the doubles team of Sathi Reddy Chirala (India) and Cid Subervi. Heng and Stephenson scored a 6-2, 6-2 first match victory as they advanced to round two versus Chad Kissell (USA) and Roy Stepanov (Canada).

“Although the match was close, we weren’t expecting that high level of play as they came out firing away and we had a slow start,” said Heng of the doubles match in which he and his partner lost 7-6(3), 7-5. “They certainly knew how to play doubles. In the tie-breaker, I missed a few shots I should have made. In the second game we were down 4-1, but came back to tie the score at four-all, but just couldn’t hold on for the victory.”

Unseeded Fnu Nidunjianzan, from China, who plays at Princeton University, showed grit in the men’s singles final focusing in the second set to defeat fourth-seeded Cid Subervi 7-5, 6-3 in the finals of the USTA Southern. In the women’s finals, top-seeded Frenchwoman Tiphanie Lemaitre downed Floridian D.J. Bennett 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-2 for the Southern title.

As a redshirt, Heng was allowed to train and travel with the Auburn team and allows him to have four more years for the SEC squad. “Next season I get to compete, but in the meantime this summer I’ll be playing in ITF events, which is lower level tournaments including in locales such as the Dominican Republic and Illinois, plus in Oklahoma where I used to train. The Southern was a great experience and I now have points allotted to my professional resume.”

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