Whitehead finally reaches coveted Nationals in New York


Ben Chesnut

Senior Daniel Whitehead won the USTA/ITA Texas Regionals in singles competition and will represent Texas at Nationals.

Nitya Duran

Senior Daniel Whitehead won the USTA/ITA Texas Regional singles draw Oct. 23 to advance to the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Championships.

“I’m feeling good. Every year I’ve gotten better and better. It just took a while to get to Nationals,” Whitehead said.

And it’s true. The Sugar Land, Texas native ended his freshman year as a Longhorn with an 11-8 singles record, a 23-7 doubles record and a 2-2 dual-singles record. At the end of his junior campaign last year he had a career singles record of 63-31, doubles record of 70-24 and dual-singles record of 30-18. Whitehead won the Rice Fall Invitational during his sophomore year and the Racquet Club Collegiate Invitational during his junior year.

However, the Texas Regionals are much more prestigious than any of those tournaments. A win at the Regionals guarantees you a spot at the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Championships in New York.

“It’s really difficult to win [the Texas Regionals],” Texas head coach Michael Center said after Whitehead won. “The physical and emotional toll of it becomes a big factor. Daniel managed himself in these matches really well.”

Whitehead admits that Center has taught him so much both on and off the court since he first became a Longhorn back in 2009.

“[Coach Center] is a good man. He has good morals. And he’s ready every day to come out here and work hard. That’s a good leader and example of how to be,” Whitehead said. “He told me that when I do something good, he will tell me. But he hasn’t said that yet so I’ll just keep trying to improve.”

That philosophy has translated well as he leads by example.

He is the first player since Ed Corrie in 2009 to win the Texas Regional singles and qualify for the Nationals, and with such a distinguished tournament coming up for Whitehead, his teammates are supporting him all the way.

“It’s sort of the way our team is. It doesn’t matter if it’s a doubles tournament or an individual; if we’re not playing we’re watching the others play.

They’re supporting me and helping me practice for New York the same way I’ll be there to support them [at the UT Invitational],” Whitehead said.

Whitehead was a freshman supporting Corrie when he won the Regionals and advanced to the Nationals in 2009. Now Whitehead is the one that is being watched as he practices and prepares for the Nationals in New York while the newer guys support and help him along the way.

“The longer we’re here the more we can help our freshmen with all of the things that come with being a freshman,” Whitehead said.

But the road to the singles title will be filled with much tougher opponents than Whitehead has faced all year. The three top-seeded players in the nation, Duke’s Henrique Cunha, Virginia’s Jarmere Jenkins and Pepperdine’s Sebastian Fanselow, are all in the tournament and are eyeing the top prize. Whitehead will have to play the best tennis of his life to come out victorious. He began the season with a 1-3 singles record through his first tournament, but has since improved dramatically. Whitehead has won six of his last eight, en route to a 7-5 record on the season through the end of the Texas Regionals.

Whitehead will try to keep his favorite Texas tradition alive — winning — in New York, but he’s going to take it one game at a time.

“A tennis match is a tennis match. It might get a little tougher, but it’s the same philosophy into each match,” Whitehead said.