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October 3, 2016 08:35 PM

Toby Smith visits with junior standout Nicolas Scheller

NicHitAlbuquerque’s Nicolas Scheller is on a tennis fast-track. At 12 years of age, Scheller is ranked nationally—59 in singles, 36 in doubles. Those facts become even impressive when you learn he began to play competitively only three years ago. Last month, for the third year in a row, Scheller, a seventh grader, served as a ball kid at the Coleman Vision Tennis Championships.  As if that was not enough, he took part in the Coleman’s Pro-Am and even hit for a while with the tournament’s No. 6 seed, Montserrat Gonzalez of Paraguay, who is ranked 105 in the world. In case you’re wondering, Nicolas will not be in the men’s draw at the Australian Open.
You spent a good amount of time at this year’s Coleman.  What did you learn there?

That the players are very focused.  Even when they have headphones on, you can see how much they concentrate.

What are your thoughts about the Coleman singles winner, Mandy Minella, from Luxembourg? How would you characterize her game? 

She has a big forehand and uses it to set up her backhand slice, which she likes to hit crosscourt.

And your game . . . what is it like?

I like to volley and I am working on my serve with Andy Cramer (professional at Tanoan Country Club).  He’s getting me to use my legs more. Serving is all about legs. Before, I wasn’t jumping very high when I served, maybe six inches. Now I am trying to go higher. (Holds his hand nearly a foot off the ground).

When did you first pick up a racket?  

I started hitting by myself when I was 4.  My dad would hit with me on weekends.  We would  hit a lot at those two public courts north of Paseo.  

Tell me about your groundstrokes? 

I used to have a one-handed backhand.  Then I had some lessons with Sissy Kelly.  She didn’t like that I hit it one-handed.  She thought it was impractical and that people would target it.  I know it’s harder to get balls that are high on the backhand side one-handed.   But I also know a two-hander is hard when you are pulled wide.  I like to hit a slice one handed if the ball is very low.  A two-handed backhand is now my favorite shot and maybe best part of my game. 

What professional players do you like?  

Andy Murray is my favorite.  He hits his two-handed backhand really well.  I like watching him play against Djokovic. What I don’t like is watching Murray when he goes all mental on the court.  

How about you? How is your court temperament?

I used to get angry when I was younger, mostly when I was playing against a cheater.  I’ve now learned to stay mentally focused when someone is hooking me.  If someone keeps doing it, I would now call the tournament referee. 

On the national 12-and-under scene, who gives you the most trouble?  

Probably Jiaxi Ma of southern California.  He’s about 17 nationally.  The last time we played, he beat me 0 and 2.  He has a very good forehand and backhand.  He never misses, which is why he is so good. 

And in the Southwest?  

That would be Aaron Eliscu who is from Tucson and Georgio Samaha from Albuquerque. I am good friends with both of them. Thomas Faurel of California is another good player my age.   

I know you attend Annunciation Catholic School. Are you playing middle school tennis? 

I have played a couple of middle school matches. I do it mostly to be with my friends.

How much tennis do you play during the week?

On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday I am with LPTA, at the Lobo Club.  On Wednesday, it’s Tanoan with Andy.  My Dad mostly leaves things to my coaches. 

The Corleys, Ivana and Carmen, the Hootmans and Georgio. Ben Dunbar is in charge and Robin (Goodman, assistant UNM men’s coach) is there  too.   

What subject do you like best in school?  

I like science and social studies.  I don’t like math that much.  I’m starting to like it; I have to learn it.

Do you have siblings?  

I have a sister, Karina.  She’s 18 and she plays tennis at St. Pius X.  I have a brother, Sebastian, He’s 15 and is tall. He’s a basketball player at St. Pius.  

Do you ever play a match with your father?  I hear he was a very good junior player once upon a time.  

When I started out, my dad used to go easy on me.  He can’t do that anymore. I think the last time we played, I beat him, 6-0, 6-2.  Or, maybe he won the second set.  

How often is your first name misspelled?

A lot. 

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