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New Canaan's 'Hit Man'

Tennis coach Dan Scheuler does extra duty at Pilot Pen.

Dan Scheuler is the Director of Tournament Teams at the New Canaan Racket Club, where he works with highly ranked juniors from ages six to seventeen. He also teaches young beginners at Mead Memorial Park in the spring and summer months. In between his full-time work, Dan usually takes some time off in August to be a "hit man."

Scheuler is part of a pool of five or six players who hit with pros warming up for competition at the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament who don't otherwise have hitting partners. Players often hire hitting partners they're familiar with or coaches perform that duty, but some coaches opt to coach from the sideline or alongside their players, and other players simply don't travel with a coach. That's where 32-year-old Scheuler comes in.

He says hitting with the women players has been an eye-opening experience. Last year at Pilot Pen, Scheuler often hit with Daniela Hantukova, currently number 23 in the World Tennis Association Rankings, and Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, ranked 26th. Scheuler was very impressed with Hantuchova's  ground strokes, especially her backhand.

He said the common thread among the women is that "they hit very hard. They hit low trajectory, deep balls with amazing accuracy," He said the men he helped warm up "hit with more spin than the women." But since Scheuler played college tennis, the mens' game didn't surprise him.

Scheuler has an impressive résumé of his own. A native of Mexico, MO— population 11,300—he played college tennis in-state at Drury University, in Springfield, a Division II school. After college he worked for the Dennis VanDerMeer Tennis Academy and then moved eastward, settling in New Canaan in 2002. Scheuler still plays tournament tennis and was ranked 4th in the New England Open Division last year.

Scheuler and the other volunteers don't receive any payment for being hitting partners at Pilot Pen, but they get free tickets to the tournament.

If you see him on the practice court this week say hello. But remember, he is a "hit man." And watch for him at the U.S. Open too, he'll be heading there on an invitation from Kaia Kanepi to be her hitting partner.

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