KALAMAZOO — It took a nightmarish two days for Indianapolis’ Nick Chappell to travel home from London after he competed in Junior Wimbledon last month.
“We had to go through Paris and that flight was canceled,” Chappell said. “We couldn’t leave until the next day.
“Then I got sick, and then they lost my bags.”
Chappell, 17, won’t have those kinds of worries this week when he returns to Kalamazoo to compete in the USTA Boys 18 & 16 National Championships.
Last year in Kalamazoo, Chappell won the consolation round after losing to top-seeded Jack Sock in three sets in the quarterfinals of the 16s division.
He also teamed with Marcos Giron, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., to win the doubles title.
“As a tennis player, Nick is a very calm, cool and calculating player,” local tennis coach Tom Walker said. “He handles pressure very well.
“He takes such joy in playing, a lot of guys who are in the feed-ins (consolation round) are down, Nick’s so excited because he’s still playing.”
This year, the lefty is in the 18s division and again playing doubles with Giron.
The duo teamed for two other tournaments, including a title in the Easter Bowl in April.
Doing so well in Kalamazoo last August “gave me a lot of confidence,” Chappell said. “It’s always been my favorite tournament and I’ve played well there. I have a lot of friends there and we stay with Matt Johnson’s family.”
Johnson, a Portage Central High School graduate, now plays tennis at Notre Dame.
Making the choice to compete at the International Tennis Federation level, Chappell has become quite the world traveler, competing in the three junior grand slams — the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon — as well as tournaments in Canada, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Brazil.
He often travels with his coach, Hector Clavijo, and his father, Greg Chappell.
“I was gone for seven weeks (May 17 to July 3) and I got a little tired of being over there (in Europe),” Chappell said.
“I missed just getting in my car and seeing my friends.”
Chappell’s mother, Amy Chappell, a neurologist who is involved in clinical research for Eli Lilly and Co., said that while her son made the choice to play the ITFs, “He’s definitely going to college. I’m not sure if he’ll be there all four years, but he is going.
“Nick can pretty much go anywhere. We’re getting bombarded with calls, kind of like in ‘The Blind Side’ (movie).”
Traveling so much, Chappell is doing high school online and will be a senior in the fall. He’s rated a five-star, blue-chip college recruit.
“Right now, my tops are Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State, USC, Tennessee and Michigan, but I haven’t narrowed it down much,” he said.
His brother, Paul, plays tennis at Texas Christian University, and that’s an outside possibility, Nick said.
“Nick’s such a great team guy that whoever gets him is going to be very lucky,” Walker said.
Said Amy Chappell: “When Nick decided to play ITFs, he started at the lowest level. He got in as a qualifier, won, and just kept winning.
“He read motivational books and kept training, then he just skyrocketed up in the standings.”
Looking at tournaments on foreign turf, “I liked Australia because it was a lot more like the U.S., lifestyle-wise,” he said. “I liked Italy a lot — the food was incredible and the people were nice.
“But the best part was playing the grand slams and meeting all the people.”
He also got a taste of different surfaces.
“Grass (in England) is a lot tougher to play on because I’m not used to it,” he said.
“Clay (in France) is more of an advantage for Europeans and South Americans. My favorite surface is definitely hardcourts.”
One highlight of his European jaunt was watching Roger Federer at Wimbledon, even though that was the quarterfinals match he lost to Tomas Berdych.
“I always dreamed of watching Federer play,” Chappell said. “But just being at Wimbledon, with all the history, was great.”
He also watched the first four sets of the historic match (11 hours, 5 minutes over three days) between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut.
“We watched the last set on TV,” he said.
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