RICHMOND– Spencer Whitaker won the National Boys 14s selection tournament in Columbus, Ga. on Feb. 15. Whitaker dropped only 14 games in five matches en route to the championship. It was his second selection tournament tile in four months. “I’m feeling more compelled to reach my goals because I feel like I can do it now,” said Whitaker. “I’ve spent countless hours on the court. I’ve spent more time in the gym, strengthening my body and getting more fit. It’s paid off in match time.” Whitaker was granted the one seed in a draw of 32 competitors. “There was a little bit of added pressure, knowing that I was supposed to be the one that came out on top,” said Whitaker, an eighth-grader at St. Michael’s School Whitaker said his toughest matches came in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the clay-court tournament. “The quarterfinal was a big mental battle for me,” said Whitaker. “The semifinal was a good physical battle because the kid was a very good counter-puncher. I was able to maximize my play to get the best results I could.” In the final, Whitaker disposed of No. 6 seed Alex Lee of Oak Brook, Ill., 6-2, 6-2. “I played him before, at the National [14s] Clay Courts last year, and I won there but the score was closer,” said Whitaker. “I think I knew him a little bit better, and I think I’ve improved my game tremendously since last summer.” The tournament win vaulted Whitaker’s national 14’s ranking to No. 3. Two years ago, he was ranked as high as No. 2 in the 12-and-under division. “He might sound too good to be true,” said Pat Anderson, an area teaching pro who worked with Whitaker when he was starting out. “But the results speak for themselves.” Anderson believes Whitaker has what it takes to become successful on the pro tour one day. “You could see it when he was a little kid,” said Anderson. “Mentally, he gets it. He understands the game. He fights for every point. He never chokes. He might get beat, but he doesn’t give it away. You have to beat him. ” Whitaker works mostly with his father, Scott, and former Virginia Commonwealth University player Julien Lousao. “There’s never a weak practice,” said Anderson. “The kid goes full out. The closest kid to compare him to around here mentally is Max Schnur.” Schnur, a former Collegiate standout who played at Columbia University, is now playing doubles on the pro circuit. The next step for Whitaker is an invitation to one of the U.S. Tennis Association’s training centers where he can hone his skills against the best players in his age group on a daily basis. “I can promise you no other kid in the top 20 goes to school like he does,” said Anderson. “They’re all in academies.” In a normal week, Whitaker spends around 15 hours on the court. He also keeps up with his school work, where he is a straight-A student. “He’s a great kid,” said Anderson. “As many tournaments as he’s won nationally, he’s also won the sportsmanship award a bunch of times. Usually, that does not happen.” Whitaker and his dad are in the process of choosing his high school. “We do not have any plans set in stone,” said Whitaker. “We’re still looking for the best fit for me moving forward.” Next on the tournament horizon for Whitaker are the USTA National Spring Junior Team championships (Boys 14s) in Mobile, Ala. and the Easter Bowl Junior championships at Indian Wells, Calif.
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