Whitaker’s Improvement Includes Orange Bowl Title

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Whitaker’s Improvement Includes Orange Bowl Title

RICHMOND– It’s been almost a year since Spencer Whitaker chose to train at the IMG/Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, FL.

His transformation on and off the court is evident to those who see him compete. 

Richmond Teaching Pro Pat Anderson has worked with Whitaker since he was 4. Whitaker was ranked one in the country at 14.

Anderson says Whitaker has gotten stronger since then.

“He’s gotten bigger,” said Anderson. “But now he’s going to another level. Now he’s playing with the top players in the world, not just the United States.”

Earlier this month, Whitaker won the 16-under doubles division with Eliot Spizzirri at the Orange Bowl Junior Tennis Championships in Plantation, Fla. The tournament is considered the most prestigious junior event in the world.

As an unseeded entry in doubles, Whitaker and Spizzirri knocked off the No. 3 seed in the first round and eliminated the No. 6 seed in the quarterfinals.

They faced another unseeded team in the final and won 5-7, 6-3 (10-5).

Whitaker said it was a fun and competitive match.

“We had to keep our determination going and pull out the second set,” said Whitaker. “Winning the Orange Bowl is the pinnacle of a junior career, and it was kind of cool that we could both do it in doubles together.”

Whitaker and Spizzirri played together for the first time at the Easter Bowl at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California. The unseeded American duo swept through the draw.

Whitaker said their early success was unexpected.

“It was kind of funny that the first time we played with each other, we won one of the biggest tournaments in the U.S.,” said Whitaker. “I think that maybe was a little hint that we should play with each other more.”

Whitaker said he’s pleased with the improvements in his game since his arrival to Florida.

“They’ve really helped me to improve my fitness and my on-court mentality and my determination,” said Whitaker.

Whitaker is taking academic classes at the academy and is a sophomore with a 4.0 GPA.

College coaches from all over the country were in attendance at the tournament. Former Richmonder Rodney Harmon, who is the women’s coach at Georgia Tech, came to watch.

Harmon, a former touring pro ranked in the world’s top 50, is a past director of men’s tennis for the USTA.

Harmon said Whitaker has a chance to become a successful professional player.

“If he can get more muscle, he will play like [David] Ferrer or [Kei] Nishikori,” said Harmon. “He is such a great competitor and fights for every point.” 

Whitaker said he isn’t sure where he wants to go to college. He said he wants to turn pro.

“Every day I’m trying to work towards being one of the best in the world,” said Whitaker. “So every day opens new doors for improvement and challenges I need to learn.”