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Dominant Green Devil keeps team atop county

Nick Gallauer of St. Petersburg keeps his cool after a shaky start to the season and avenges his lone loss.

Published May 26, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - In the end, things worked out just fine. Nick Gallauer found his keys in his pocket, he had his MP3 player, he was able to find a shaded spot under a tree to relax, and he stepped on the court with plenty of time to spare.

Then he breezed through the district final, beating his rival from East Lake, Geoff Gilchrist, 6-1, 6-0.

Gallauer was so good, Gilchrist could only say "that's simply great playing. ... I had nothing, nothing to compete with you."

Neither did anyone else in the county this year.

Gallauer avenged his loss to Gilchrist earlier in the season and by doing so, wrapped up a season in which he handled everyone in his path and earned the Times player of the year designation.

But, oh, how differently it began. Though the 17-year-old commands the court with exact precision and maturity beyond his years, there was a moment off the court where he was at a loss.

It was the first match of the season and Gallauer was at No. 1 singles for St. Petersburg. He inherited the position from 2004 Times player of the year Shay Wali. The nerves were already tensed, expectations high.

Gallauer walked to his car, reached into his jeans pocket and couldn't find his keys. They were on the passenger seat of his 1998 Honda Civic. His AAA card had expired. His parents were both at work. His team was about to start the season without him.

"All I really needed from my car was my racket and my tennis gear," said Gallauer, a junior who maintains a 3.0 GPA. "But I didn't want to let my team down so I was ready to just bum a ride off anyone and just play in my jeans and my shoes if I had to."

With help from a wire coat hanger, Gallauer made it into his car and to the courts just minutes before officials were ready to forfeit the match.

In his debut, Gallauer did not have time to warm up, struggled through and lost 8-6 to Gilchrist.

He wouldn't lose again.

Gallauer, who sat in the bucket of balls at age 2 as his dad, Hans, taught lessons as a tennis pro at the St. Petersburg Racket Club, led the Green Devils to a second consecutive undefeated season and another district title for the team.

He dominated, losing just two games the rest of the regular season on his way to a 10-1 record. He lost at region on a controversial line call on match point to the eventual Class 5A winner, David Wolf.

"I stepped up my training in the past two years to get to this point where I have the chance to compete against the best," said Gallauer, who says his game emulates Andy Roddick. "I've worked on improving all parts of my game and this (region loss) motivates me even more to get better."

Other county coaches noticed the type of player and person Gallauer is and have been impressed by how he handles things.

"A great thing about Nick is that he is good at everything on the court, from his serve to his volley, he's just consistent in all areas," Pinellas Park coach Hollie Miller said. "But the special part about him is that he isn't cocky or arrogant about himself. He's very humble."

And a hard worker. On the last day of school, after the bells rang and the doors opened, coach Alan Turnquist found him working out with his personal trainer on one of the courts.

"He's come a long way," Turnquist said. "He was the No. 6 his freshman year and through all his hard work earned the No. 1 this year. He just wants to keep getting better and hopefully win states next year."

The way things have progressed for Gallauer, he should have a pretty good chance at that. Just as long as he can find his keys.

[Last modified May 26, 2005, 01:18:13]


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