Hirschberg prepares for tennis career at Brown
Updated 11:20 pm, Friday, September 2, 2011
Danny Hirschberg arguably graduates from the Staples boys tennis team as one of its two best players ever.
Hirschberg hopes to write another successful chapter in his tennis career at Brown University. Before committing to Brown, where he is on the team and only has to fight for a position, he also considered Dartmouth, Cornell and Yale.
"I'm pretty happy I don't have to try out and it takes the pressure off of me," Hirschberg said. "I worked on my game so I can stay in shape. Brown's campus and being in Providence made my decision easy and a friend from USTA [United States Tennis Association] also committed to Brown]."
Especially in the last two years, Hirschberg has the record that puts him in elite company. He won two straight Class LL titles and won the State Open title this year while not losing a set both years.
"Winning the Open was fun but winning States meant more because it gave the team the overall victory," Hirschberg said.
For the past three years, he played first singles for Staples and his only loss sophomore year was to Greenwich's Rob Wong, who was a senior back then.
"Danny goes down as either the No. 1 or 1A singles player in Staples tennis history," Wreckers Coach Kris Hrisovulos said. "He's one of the most, well-rounded teenagers I've been around. He's a great student and athlete and brings a great demeanor on and off the court. It's hard to find a student athlete like him who achieved a lot off the court and is committed to high school tennis."
Hrisovulos believes either Hirschberg or Alex Jacobs (Class '01, a former teammate of the coach) are the two best players in Staples history. Both players were All-American and there were only three in team history to achieve this honor (Glenn Welling, '88 was the first in Wrecker tennis history to reach this national zenith).
"It feels pretty good and it was a great honor," Hirschberg said. "I worked really for it and I was surprised and happy when I got it."
On having his accomplishments being matched up to Jacobs and Welling, Hirschberg said: "They are all incredible players and it's exciting to be compared to them. To be considered to be in their group is amazing."
Being a dominating player with a chance to make his mark on a formidable Division I program didn't happen overnight for Hirschberg. He spent countless hours working on his game and got help along the way, including his USTA coach Brian Barker. Barker coached him for the last two years and is also professional tennis player James Blake's coach. Blake's best friend Matt Daly has also coached Hirschberg.
"It had a lot to do with the practices but I had great coaches throughout the years," Hirschberg said. "Kris played a huge part in my success. I was able to go undefeated the past two years because Kris was able to calm me down during the matches."
Whenever Hirschberg plays in a big match, he always remains calm and raises his game.
"Playing a lot of USTA matches, helped," he said.
In addition to being the Class LL and State Open singles champion, Hirschberg was the CIAC All-State MVP Player of the Year. He was the Connecticut Post's and FCIAC's MVP the last two years.
"It's incredible," Hirschberg said. "I worked hard and receiving all of these awards felt incredible. I was surprised by a lot of them and I was very happy to receive them."
The recognition Hirschberg received wasn't limited to his play. He was also selected for the New England USTA Sportsmanship Award, 2011 USTA Colonel Bernard Gorfinkle Sportsmanship Award and the USTA Zonals Sportsmanship Award.
"That's even more important than the personal achievement awards," Hirschberg said. "A lot of good people won it in the past and it's nice to be put in the same league with those people."
With tennis being an emotional game, many players have their rough moments and act like spoiled sports. Hirschberg's ability to keep an even keel, coupled with his model behavior on the court, makes good sportsmanship second nature for him.
"In the end, it's just a game," Hirschberg said. "You have to know when to be competitive and when to relax and remembering it's just a sport and it doesn't mean everything in my life helps me relax."
Hrisovulos said, "On the court, he has A-plus sportsmanship. You can't ask for a better kid on and off the court."
Hirschberg's success wasn't limited to the CIAC circuit. He was ranked No. 2 in New England in USTA and 50th nationally and won the New England Sectionals USTA doubles title with Alex Steinroeder of Concord, Mass., the top-ranked New England player.
In USTA play, Hirschberg had the most success in doubles and was ranked 15th nationally. At Staples, he never played a doubles match.
"They are two completely different games," Hirschberg said. "I like singles more because I like being on my own and relying on myself."
Possessing a lethal serve helped Hirschberg develop into a dominating force.
"It has a lot to do with technique," Hirschberg said. "I work on little things that make me better and Matt and Brian helped me a lot with it."
Choosing between the baseline and net isn't hard for Hirschberg.
"My strengths on the court is my movement and quickness and the baseline is more suited for my strengths because I can get to a lot of balls back there," Hirschberg said. "I like the baseline more."
On the baseline, he gets to many balls his contemporaries have trouble with and slams ground strokes with strength and velocity.
"Since I was little, I was quick on the court and I work a lot on my fitness," Hirschberg said.
Although the 5-10, 150-pound Hirschberg doesn't see himself as a net-person, he's strong there as well. He shows a lot of might there and delivered many overhead forehand slams for winners.
"Part of improving my overall game was practicing a lot at the net," Hirschberg said. "There are a few drills I do in practice to improve my net game and my slams."
Life on the tennis courts began for Hirschberg at age 5. His father Andy played in college, which prodded him to give it a try. He began playing in tournaments at age 10 and was ranked fourth among U-12 in New England.
Growing up, he also played baseball and basketball before giving them up in eighth grade to focus solely on tennis.
"I wanted to train for tennis during the winter so I could improve my game and take it to the next level," Hirschberg said. "It worked out well."
Leadership is another strength of Hirschberg's as he served as co-captain. He led the Wreckers by example through his work ethic and verbally by encouraging his teammates before the matches.
"Jesse [Heussner, the other captain] and I did a great job of leading the team to the state title and it was a fun experience," Hirschberg said.
One player he helped is his younger brother Jake, who began his junior year at Staples yesterday.
"I saw what Danny accomplished and he inspired me to get better," Jake Hirschberg said. "Seeing what he did for the team makes me want to be like him. He encourages me a lot, he always cheers for me and let's me know how good I can be."
Academically, Hirschberg took four AP courses in his career and was in the top 10 percent of his class. Math is his favorite subject.
"Schoolwork has always come first for me and my parents have stressed it ever since I started to play tennis," Hirschberg said.
Hirschberg is already on Brown's squad. The next task is to earn playing time for the Bears and to do so, he knows he'll have to raise his game to the next level.
"It's going to come down to working hard in practice," Hirschberg said. "Tennis is more of a team sport in college and it comes down to the whole team working hard."
Hrisovulos said, "I think it's a good fit for him. Danny's definitely going to fight for a position in the lineup and brings great qualities to play the role. He has growth and you'll see a lot of him."