In Four Seasons, Danny Mack Never Lost in Polk County
Sun. June 10, 2012 at 12:00 a.m. | By B.J. Pitzen
Boys Player of the Year: Danny Mack. Senior, Lakeland. Mack finished his senior season undefeated in regular-season play and won county and district titles for the fourth year in a row. He made it to the finals of the individual bracket in the Class 3A state tennis tournament, but lost a close one in straight sets. (Photo by Michael Wilson | The Ledger)
By B.J. PITZEN | LEDGER CORRESPONDENT
LAKELAND | Undoubtedly the most dominant Polk County high school tennis player over the past four years, Lakeland senior Danny Mack remained undefeated in regular-season singles play and chalked up just four career losses (all in the state tournament).
After winning his fourth county and district titles this season, Mack lost in the finals match of the individual singles bracket at the FHSAA Class 3A tournament.
For the fourth time in a row, Mack is the PolkPreps.com boys tennis player of the year.
"It feels amazing (to win four)," Mack said. "I know it is a huge accomplishment, and my hard work and dedication has paid off."
In state competition, Mack's runner-up finish as a junior in the 2011 Class 3A state finals was his best performance. Mack had a bye and won two matches this year at state but lost to eventual state runner-up Parker Woodall of Cypress Lake 6-1, 7-5.
"It was disappointing — any loss is a disappointment," Mack said. "But I know I lost to a very strong player, and I tried my best."
In his freshman and sophomore seasons, Mack was knocked out in his first-round of play by the eventual state champion.
Also, Mack teamed up with Forrest Simmers this season to win the county and district tournaments, but the doubles pair eventually lost in the first round at state.
Mack will continue his career in college on a full scholarship to the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
Mack's Parents, Robert and Cathy Mack, both played tennis at Swarthmore (Pa.) College and helped their son develop as a junior player by taking him all over the state and country to compete.
As a 9-year old, Mack carried a No. 1 ranking in Florida by the United States Tennis Association and was ranked No. 9 in the country by the USTA as an 11-year old.
"I had to win many tournaments and matches to get ranked so high, but I give a lot of credit to my parents and coaches as well," Mack said. "My coaches worked me hard and kept me on track, and my parents did whatever I needed for me."
However, Mack got burned out on tennis between the ages of 13 to 15 and scaled back from national tournament play.
"I was playing too much tennis," Mack said. "At the time, I felt as if I was being pushed too hard to play so much, and tennis became a job. It stopped being enjoyable."
Mack rekindled the fire after his freshman season by looking inward and to Dreadnaughts coach Mari Fielding and his teammates for encouragement and motivation.
"I realized that you don't necessarily have to enjoy doing the things that you are good at all of the time," Mack said. "I realized that tennis was going to be my key to going to college for a scholarship, and I didn't want to let my talent go to waste. So I kept practicing, started playing tournaments again and the hard work paid off."
Fielding praised Mack not only for his ability but his sportsmanship.
"The thing that was so different about Danny was his integrity on the court," Fielding said. "He would call balls in that were a foot out because he didn't want to make a bad call."
Fielding added: "He is the best player to ever come out of Polk County, and he has made Lakeland very proud."