An incident in November 2017 made for the most difficult moment so far in Anthony Hiatt’s life as a parent.
The tennis pro at Northwood Country Club coaches both of his children in the sport. His daughter, Hardin, and son, Henry, have been playing since they were young, and even without their dad being pushy about tennis, they’ve both taken a liking to the sport and want to continue playing.
When Henry Hiatt was bitten in the face by a dog in 2017, his father’s immediate concern was obviously his son’s physical well-being. There was damage around Henry Hiatt’s left eye following the bite, and it require a trip to the emergency room.
“That was my first really scary moment as a parent,” Anthony Hiatt recalled.
The bite left scarring around the left eye and resulted in the loss of two permanent teeth for Henry Hiatt. Fortunately, that was the extend of the damage.
“We stayed in the hospital that night, and when we left that morning, we were pretty comfortable knowing there was nothing that wasn’t fixable,” Anthony Hiatt said.
Of course, tennis players need their eyes, and despite having other things to worry about at the time, Henry Hiatt admitted there was some concern on his part that it could affect his being able to play.
“I thought about it at one point because it was all swollen up, but three days later, it un-swelled, so I was back to playing tennis,” Henry Hiatt said.
Said Anthony Hiatt, “He didn’t miss too long.”
That’s not a surprise for Henry Hiatt, who is now 9 and has taken a liking to the competitive nature of the sport. Tennis has become almost an addiction, so much so that it keeps Anthony Hiatt past his regular work hours as Northwood’s tennis pro.
“He keeps me out here late,” Anthony Hiatt said. “Last night, I finished teaching at 7, and he kept me here until 9. He’s very dedicated. He loves the game, and that’s what excites me — his passion for tennis.”
Anthony Hiatt began teaching his son how to play tennis since he was either 4 or 5, and Henry Hiatt started competing in tournaments at age 6. Most recently, Henry Hiatt qualified for the USTA’s Southern Championships, along with locals Ethan Brasher and Livi Eveges, who are also in Henry Hiatt’s age bracket. That tournament took place in New Orleans in June, and both Henry Hiatt and Brasher won two matches at the competition, while Eveges was unable to attend. Next up for the group is the USTA’s junior team tennis state championships, which takes place this weekend in Jackson.
After Henry Hiatt finished top 15 in his age group at the Southern Championships, Anthony Hiatt said he’s been pleased with his son’s progress in the sport. Henry Hiatt said he’s enjoyed having his father serve as his coach.
“He’s always there, and he helps me with other things like school,” Henry Hiatt said. “He’ll throw the football with me, so he’s kind of like a dad and a tennis coach.”
Anthony Hiatt admitted the balancing act between coach and parent can be difficult at times, but he still enjoys coaching his son and his daughter, who is a few years older than Henry Hiatt.
“He goes harder on us,” Henry Hiatt said.
Even though training tennis players is his job, Anthony Hiatt said he’s tried not to force his children into the sport.
“I want them to do it because they enjoy it,” Anthony Hiatt explained. “I don’t want to push it on them.”
Henry Hiatt said he plans to keep playing as long as possible, and he’s already developed a strong forehand that he wants to keep improving.
“It’s fun to me,” Henry Hiatt said. “Since I started young, I’ve never thought about quitting. I just focus on getting better. My favorite shot is my forehand. It’s my best shot, and if you put a lot of spin on it, it makes your arm and wrist feel good. Also, I like to hit the ball hard, and that’s my hardest shot.”
Thursday morning, Henry Hiatt plans to watch his favorite tennis player, Roger Federer, compete against Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon men’s singles semifinal.
“I love the way he plays, and he has a great one-handed backhand and a great attitude,” Henry Hiatt said of Federer.
While he’s never seen Federer play in person, Henry Hiatt did have a chance to watch players like Nadal and Novak Djokovic at last year’s U.S. Open. (Federer didn’t play on the days they were in attendance.) He even caught American tennis player Jack Sock’s wristband after Sock tossed it into the stands following a win.
“We were up in the second row, and after I caught it, one kid asked if he could have it,” Henry Hiatt recalled. “I said no.”
It wasn’t just the wristband that made the experience memorable.
“I had never been to a pro match before, and so my first one being a Grand Slam was really special,” Henry Hiatt said. “I’m glad it was that Grand Slam, because at Wimbledon (for example), you have to be really quiet.”