After a summer in which he says countless people approached him to report they had witnessed Chris Nyholm working tirelessly on his serve, Hernando coach Tony Miziko figured the incoming freshman had, at the least, the work ethic to survive at the varsity level.
"He has the drive to work on his serve four hours a day," Miziko said.
Two matches into the season it appears he also has the talent to turn that serve into a dangerous weapon.
Just two years after picking up the sport for the first time, Nyholm is the No. 1 singles player on a Hernando team that thinks it can go farther than last year's region berth. He is 14, stands 5 feet 10 and has won easily in his first two varsity matches.
He is the youngest No. 1 in the county, and one of the youngest No. 1's in the area. Yet Miziko is convinced the Leopards won't suffer a dropoff at the spot, despite the fact former No. 1 Raleigh Williams graduated as a junior to attend Brigham Young University this fall.
In fact, Williams was a routine workout partner for Nyholm last summer. The two met at the courts and often would hit with each other.
"I'm a little disappointed he left because we were so close," Nyholm said, "but he has to go handle his business in college."
Nyholm was undefeated last year as an eighth-grader at Parrott Middle and said he has played with a couple of the other No. 1 singles players in the county, including Central's Jon Hayes. But he also has a good lineup backing him, including players like Chris Walters and Lance Vandervoort, both of whom were instrumental pieces of last year's district title-winning squad.
In order to better prepare for the postseason, Hernando scheduled perennial powerhouses like Orlando Bishop Moore and Tampa Jesuit this season.
Said Miziko: "That says everything about our confidence."
David Murphy can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1407.