Player Profile: Thomas Nolan


Thomas Nolan is one of those talented players ranked in the top 10 who is not a teaching pro. He works as the U.S. Sales Manager for Cylindo, which creates 3-D visualization software for the furniture industry. In the last eight weeks, he was promoted, got engaged, and moved from the city to the suburbs. Paddle took a backseat, but now Nolan is ready to get back out there and compete. “It has been the craziest time,” he admitted, “But for sure paddle will ramp up from now until Nationals.”

Tennis to Paddle

Nolan grew up in Virginia and gravitated toward tennis early. “My sister and brother both loved contact sports, but tennis was it for me. I liked playing with my dad.” He competed in the #1 position at Boston College for his last three years of school and graduated with a major in communication and a minor in Hispanic studies.

One of his tennis friends, Tim Kofol invited him to play at the Truck Stop in Billerica, MA, where most young tennis players in the Boston area began. “Now I play at Needham Pool and Racquet Club,” created after the Truck Stop grounds were sold. 

He remembers, “Two of us were warming up from the baseline, waiting for two more. Bill Durfee showed up and said, ‘You guys, stop. You're not doing it right.’ The next night, they threw me into men’s league against two old guys in khakis. I thought, ‘This is going to be a joke.’ And it was but the joke was on me. I lost easily. I knew I had to figure it out. And I did, quickly.” 

Paddle People

Kofol, Durfee, Will Corkhill, and Karl Gregor all helped Nolan early on. With gentle prodding from the experienced players to use the screens every once in a while, Nolan stopped playing tennis on the small court and established a nuanced game.

Nolan doesn’t remember much about his first tournament, the Brae Burn B, except that it was snowing and he made it to the semifinals. His first major tournament was the 2014 Pittsburgh Nationals, a 128-team draw. He and Gregor lost in the first round in three sets to a strong team, Scott Freund/Andy Todd. “I learned a ton in one match. After that, I figured out what I was doing wrong, where I needed to go, and how to play better.” Nolan/Gregor made it to the 128 Consolation Final, losing to veterans Mark Ruppert/Rusty Wright. 

He also loved competing with Adam Gart at the Boston Open. “One year, we beat Ryan Baxter and Ricky Heath, who were top players. That was a huge win for us. It was really fun to have all the local support. Making the quarters was our breakout, where people started to know who we were,” he said. Nolan/Gart were nationally ranked in the top 15 for a few years.

Presently, Nolan is ranked in the top 10 after playing a few tournaments with Graham McNerney last season. This season will be a time of flexibility for Nolan. Now that he has time to focus on the APTA Tour schedule, he will most likely rotate partners. This does not seem at all to bother Nolan. “I play in the men’s league here, and we all rotate in the top position. Our team has all the young tennis players, with some wily veterans. I rarely play with a partner more than once.”

What Works for Him

One of the reasons Nolan believes he excelled at tennis and now paddle tennis is his patience. "This sport requires you to invest a lot of time and I’m willing to grind it out. I grew up playing competitive tennis and to have something to strive for at the age of 35 is a cool thing to try to achieve.”

Ask Nolan about his strokes? “I love my backhand. I love my backhand. I hate my forehand, but that has been the case since I've been 14 years old.”

The most important part of the game for him is “the social aspect of the sport. I've met a whole different community of racquets people both locally and nationally. It's so fun. You don't see people from April to September. Fall comes around and then people are back into the spirit of things.”

Getting out in the wintertime is a huge plus. “What else would I be doing? I'm not a skier. I’m not running outside in 20°. I hate the smell of indoor tennis facilities,” he laughed. “Paddle is an amazing escape and just makes the winter manageable in our part of the world,” he said. Winter hiking with his two dogs, Wilson, a Greater Swiss Mountain dog, and Maggie, a lab, and drinking beer are the only other activities he might gravitate toward. 

Look for Thomas Nolan to hit the APTA Tour this winter, playing with other laid-back top players. He’s excited about the Boston Nationals. His secret source of energy? Skittles. “My mom saw an article about them years ago and put them in my tennis bag. I love candy!”


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