Q & A with Ole Miss tennis player Nik Scholtz
John Davis: You’ve had a fantastic year. What’s been your secret to success?
Nik Scholtz: You know, just hard work I guess. When I went back home for Davis Cup and I had that win, it meant a lot to my confidence and self-belief which always helps. When you have success, it’s not really from right now or what you did the week earlier, it’s what you did two and three years ago. Those are the things that are starting to incorporate into your game now, in the current moment.
Davis: What did you do two years ago that you can kind of pinpoint that made the difference?
Scholtz: I’ve always worked hard. I’ve always tried to push myself as hard as I can. I know when I came to college three and four years ago, that’s when I started working the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. I think it’s all starting to really pay off now.
Davis: What are your thoughts on where you are after coming to Ole Miss? Have you thought about what you’ve been like the last three years and how much improvement you’ve made in those three years?
Scholtz: I’ve always had certain flaws in may game, at the net. I used to be a terrible returner and now I’m known as a guy who has one of the best returns out there. That’s helped. Also, physically, I used to be the most un-athletic guy out there. I couldn’t move at all. When I came here, we started doing a lot of work physically, especially when I wasn’t eligible my first year and I couldn’t travel with the guys. I started to really work on my body because it wasn’t an issue. I didn’t have the play the next day, I had time to recover. I just always pushed myself. Experience wise, those are the things I’ve improved on the most.
Davis: Was it a great move to come here?
Scholtz: For sure. I thank God for letting me wake up one morning and deciding this is what I wanted to do. I never knew what I wanted to do except … school was already in session and I called Coach Chadwick and I said I wanted to give this a shot. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.
Davis: How long have you been playing tennis now?
Scholtz: I started when I was about 5 or 6. I’m not exactly sure.
Davis: Do you remember the first time you walked on a court?
Scholtz: No. I’ve always been the guy that’s messing around with sporting things, whether that was kicking a rugby ball, swinging a golf club. I’ve always admired sport since a young age. I probably started doing all that since I started walking to be honest. I officially started playing tennis, when I walked on the court, was geared up to start playing, that day I don’t remember.
Davis: Did your dad push you to tennis or was it somebody else?
Scholtz: Dad and mom. Dad was a rugby player, but my mom played tennis and my dad played socially. He always kind of pushed me into that. He always wanted me to do something different than what he used to do. He didn’t want people to measure me according to his accomplishments. He wanted to do something in my own realm.
Davis: Correct me if I’m wrong, but your dad is pretty famous in South Africa?
Scholtz: Dad is very well known. Everybody knows him back home. If you’re a South African rugby player, you’re one of 15 guys and everyone in the country knows those 15 guys. The younger guys, people my age, don’t really know him anymore, but anyone mid- 40s and older knows who he is.
Davis: When did he play?
Scholtz: In the ’80s.
Davis: Was it professional?
Scholtz: Back then it was amateur. He was forced to retire when he was 29 when he blew his knee out. He went to catch a ball and the other guy went to kick the ball and he got kicked right in the knee. It was hyperextended. It’s definitely a rough sport. Because we had Apartheid back then, the national team wasn’t allowed to travel because of sanctions. But they still selected the team and they had a national tour where they played other national teams. They actually went to Argentina and Chile, the only places they were allowed to go because of sanctions. Then Apartheid ended a while after. People always complain about Apartheid, but he always says ‘I’m with you, I lost everything because of Apartheid, too. I wasn’t allowed to represent my country.’ It’s one of those things that no one was really too much in favor of.
Davis: And you walk around town when you’re back home and everybody knows him?
Scholtz: Oh everyone knows him. Nobody knows me, they all know my dad (laughter). It’s a little better now, but when I’m written up in articles in the paper it’s ‘Nik, son of Calla.’ That will always been the heading.
Davis: What has Coach Chadwick meant to you?
Scholtz: He’s been a father figure in my life, not only tennis wise, but also growing up in general. He’s given me such good advice and things that will carry me throughout my whole life. The one thing I will always carry with me is when I played All-American in Tulsa. I wasn’t mentally there. I was expected to do well, ranked top 10 in the country and I ended up losing in the second round. He actually wasn’t there, but he called me and he said ‘Nik, you have to remember that you can have it all. You can have the talent, the shots, the finesse, but in the middle, controlling everything, is the heart. And when you take the heart out of the equation, you have nothing.’ That’s always something I’ll remember, how important heart and fight is. That’s the one thing that holds it all together.
Davis: Was it tough for you to hear the news earlier this year that he was gone? Or how did you even take it?
Scholtz: We all kind of expected it. With me knowing that this is possibly my last season, too, it was actually cool thinking we might end at the same time. It was something special. I think there are a lot of other people out there that are even more sad than I am about it. He’s been around so long, you kind of anticipate the time that he could announce his retirement. He will definitely be missed by everyone here, not only the tennis program, but in the community itself.
Davis: What are your thoughts on coming back? I was under the impression you would be back, but it may still be kind of fluid?
Scholtz: I have two classes left to graduate. I was thinking about doing them in summer school and getting it done. I do have one year of eligibility left and now I’m keeping that option open of coming back. My mindset right now is to go out and play professional tournaments until December and see how I do.
Davis: So you can play professionally and then come back?
Scholtz: You have to be careful with what you do with the prize money. You can’t accept the prize money and stuff like that so you hold on to your amateur status. You can sign in and play, whatever, just no pay.
Davis: So you’re really not even close to making a final decision it sounds like?
Scholtz: No. The decision will be made later. It’s hard to answer that question.
Davis: What has this team meant to you? It seemed like everyone got right towards the end of the season.
Scholtz: We started peaking a lot later. We started so bad. It took a while to get Ricardo (Jorge) eligible. There were a couple of other factors, just the guys not playing as well as they should in certain positions. We just weren’t peaking, everyone was a little raw. Then everyone started to play better and if I would choose to play better at the beginning and kind of unravel towards the end or have it vice versa, I would chose to peak at this time when it really matters.
Davis: Was there serious doubt in your mind this team wasn’t going to make the NCAAs?
Scholtz: If we didn’t beat Texas A&M and Tennessee in the first round of the SEC Tournament, we would not have made it. We were done. That was real clutch that we were able to win those.
Davis: What was it like to live here in Oxford? What will you miss?
Scholtz: The people and the environment that comes with being in Oxford. It’s such a special place. I’ve been traveling in 30 countries in my life and to some of them four and five times. This reminds me of home and that’s why I like it so much. We kind of eat the same food and the people have the same way of thinking about things. People are nice, people are true. Everything that comes with it is something l love and reminds of home. I like when things aren’t too complicated. I like how easy life is. I like if I want to get a coffee, it takes me three minutes instead of worrying if I’m going to get stuck in traffic and this and that. I like that it’s about community and people know each other. They say ‘Hey John or hey Sarah.’ I love that. It’s like one big family.