Twin Cities Teen Tennis Phenom Alexis Nelson
Just 13 years old, Alexis Nelson is the #1-ranked player among girls 18-and-under in the USTA's Northern Section.
Last weekend she made it to the final round of a sectional qualification tournament for the U.S. Open.
Not the Junior U.S. Open... the *real* U.S. Open.
Overachieving on the court at such a young age is prompting Alexis, and her family, to make some tough choices about her future.
She learned a lot about her game at a different major tournament earlier this season.
"I'm 13 but I ended up playing in 16-unders," Nelson says. "I didn't have many expectations. There were a lot of good girls in it. I just went into the tournament and I felt really good, so I decided to keep playing well and see what happens."
What happened? She won the tournament, a victory at a national elite-level tournament she says is the highlight of her young career.
Is it possible the 16-year-olds underestimated the 5-foot-3 middle school spitfire?
"It used to happen a lot," Nelson admits. "But I started playing them and I think they kind of realized that I could hang with them and compete with them and they started to take me a little more seriously."
Nelson's father David credits his daughter's talent - and her drive - as the main components to her success.
"Oh geez... She's very competitive," he laughs. "She has that fire She's a competitor and she does not like to lose."
Traveling to nationwide tournaments along with practice time an schoolwork at Capitol Hill Magnet is not easy.
"It's just a lot of time management," Alexis says. "You have to be smart about when you choose to do things. But we've gotten into a routine so it's easier to do things - we'll play tennis for a few hours then I'll do my homework, then have some dinner then I'll probably go to bed."
"We juggle everything pretty well," her father says. "It's a challenge, but we can do it."
"You have to keep it fun," Alexis says. "As long as you're having fun it will make you just want to practice more and you'll keep getting better. Nobody's forcing me to play, I just want to do it and be the best I can."
A very good student, Alexis is on the verge of committing to online coursework next year to ease the burden on her schedule.
"It was a little tough to decide," she says. "The reason we decided to do online (schooling) is because it's a lot more flexible, so I won't have to worry about making up tests or missing assignments."
It's a choice her father is cautious about, but is comfortable with it thanks to Alexis' commitment to classwork matching her commitment on the tennis court.
"It'll be a learning process for both of us, and the whole family," David Nelson says. "Just to get our foot in the door and start the process, I hope it goes well. It'll be more challenges, I imagine, we'll just face those and get through those like anything."
But hearing how Lexi talks, you get the feeling she can handle it.
"I just want to be the best that I can be," she says. "I just want to do everything to the fullest and make sure I'm doing everything 110-percent so when I grow up I don't look back and say 'oh I could have done this, should have done that'.