Another Damian Sancilio Making His Mark on the Court
By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer
Like father, like son?
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Damian Sancilio made quite a name for himself on the local and international tennis scene. He led Douglas Freeman High School to the Group AAA state high school championship, then won a pair of city men’s singles titles 22 years apart.
In between, Sancilio played as high as No. 2 singles for the University of Virginia and coached the Kuwait Davis Cup team for six years. He also served as a personal coach for several years for Sabine Hack on the women’s pro tour.
Now Sancilio, 49, is a partner and club director at the Courtside West indoor facility off Gaskins Roads in western Henrico County. And there’s another Sancilio by the same name who has started to make his presence known locally and nationally.
Damian “Little D” Sancilio, 8, was the runner-up recently (Oct. 19-21) in the 8-and-under division of the prestigious “Little Mo” Nationals in Austin, Texas. The tournament is named after Maureen Connolly “Little Mo” Brinker, who captured the women’s Grand Slam in 1953, and is run by her MCB Tennis Foundation.
A third-grader at St. Bridget Catholic School, “Little D” had to finish in the top four at two previous “Little Mo” tournaments to qualify for the Nationals. In each case, Sancilio won the sectionals (in Boyd, Md.) and the regionals (in Atlanta).
“The first [match], he won easily against a kid from Tulsa, Oklahoma,” said the elder Sancilio. “The second round, he played a good kid from California and won 6-0, 7-5. The third round, or semifinals, was against a really tough kid from Phoenix, Arizona.
“He was down 5-2 in the third set and came back and won 7-5. That’s what I was so proud of, the way he came back.”
“Little D,” who is currently ranked No. 7 in the Mid-Atlantic section in the 10-under division, wasn’t sure how he regained control but said, “When I won the first game after 5-2, and it was 5-3, I thought it was going to be a little closer, like maybe 7-6 or 7-5.”
In the final, his opponent came in having dropped just one game in his first three matches.
“Actually, he hadn’t lost a match in this whole Little Mo thing,” said Big Damian. “He was amazing. He’s just stronger than everybody. Damian was fighting. This kid was just too good. But I was proud of him for the way he played the whole tournament.”
Unlike many 8-under tournaments that use lighter balls and smaller courts, regulation courts and balls were used in this event.
“Little D” has been working with his dad since he was small, while also playing other sports like basketball, soccer, football and baseball.
“He loves to play just tennis but I’m trying to get him to play all the other sports,” said his Dad.
“[Tennis] is a different sport,” said “Little D.” “You’re on the court by yourself.”
Sancilio hits with others his age around town, like Chase Robinson, Evan Bernstine, Siddharth Pande, Nick Reynolds, Hatcher Butterworth and Ryan Monroe to improve his game. Robinson won the consolation bracket in the “Little Mo” Internationals last year.
“We’ve got a real bumper crop of 10-and-unders in Richmond right now,” said Sancilio. “It’s a good group of kids. Damian’s little brother, Roman, is good too. He’s six. He won 21 straight matches with the orange [lighter] ball.”
“Little D” is not quite like his Dad, since he and his brother both are left-handers like their grandfather, Lawrence, instead of rightys.
“He loves tennis and he loves competing,” Big Damian said. “He’s a smart player on the court. He’s really competitive. He doesn’t quit as you can see in that 5-2 comeback. He’s a real fighter. He’s advanced at what he does. Already hits angles and drop shots. Figures out opponent’s weaknesses.
“But he’s still so young. I don’t want him to burn out. I want him to play other sports.”
Perhaps one day “Little D” will outshine his Dad but he’s got a long way to go.