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Newsday's Athlete of the Week is Nicolina Giannola of St. Anthony's girls tennis

Nicolina Giannola of St. Anthony's High School keeps

Nicolina Giannola of St. Anthony's High School keeps close watch on the play during a CHSAA girls team tennis semifinal on Thursday, October 15, 2021. Credit: Dawn McCormick

Don’t be around Nicolina Giannola making excuses. She doesn’t have time for that.

In fact, she’s a role model for fellow student-athletes -- and all people, really -- with her incredible time-management skills. She’s also a darn good tennis player.

The St. Anthony’s junior won the CHSAA singles state qualifier on Monday with victories in three matches, and will represent the CHSAA at the state girls tennis individual championship in Schenectady on Oct. 28-30.

"I’m really excited," said Giannola, Newsday’s Athlete of the Week. "I really just want to put my best foot forward on behalf of [the CHSAA], and do the best that I can."

Giannola went 8-1 this season at first singles for St. Anthony’s, and helped the Friars advance to CHSAA team semifinals on Thursday. She won her match at first singles after dropping the first two games, 6-2, 6-0, but St. Anthony’s lost to Sacred Heart Academy.

"I had been playing on clay a lot before this, and it was more about adjusting to the [hard] surface," she said. "I just calmed down and started adding a lot more topspin to my shots and everything was flowing after that."

A typical day for Giannola starts with a 5:30 a.m. alarm. She takes a 6:45 train from Port Jefferson to Huntington and gets to St. Anthony’s for a school day that runs from 8:20 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

After either a Friars tennis practice or match, she has a two-hour practice, three nights a week at SPORTIME in either Kings Park or Syosset and usually gets home close to 10 p.m.

She also has private lessons on Sunday, and estimates she plays and/or practices tennis 8-to-10 hours a week while maintaining a 100.53 weighted average.

"Most of the time I do homework in the car, or on the train in the morning," said Giannola, who transferred to St. Anthony’s before her sophomore year. "It’s all about time management."

Curtis McCalla has coached the Friars boys program since 2017, and is in his first season as the girls coach.

"I heard about Gianna before our first practice, and after getting to meet her and watch how she approaches the game, she’s so professional," he said. "Everything about her -- the rituals and little things she does -- really separates her from other players. She’s on a whole other level."

Giannola, who recently turned 16, is interested in studying business and one day being involved in real estate. But she also hopes to play the sport -- she started as a 6-year-old -- at the collegiate level.

"Tennis has given me so many opportunities and really has shaped me as a person," said Giannola, who credits instructor, Ken Feuer, with her improved play the last few years. "I think it’s taught me to be more confident, a lot more independent and to just trust myself."

No excuses there.

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