One-on-one with new men's tennis coach Xander Centenari '13
Xander Centenari was a two-time captain and All-Ivy player for the Big Green.
Last Tuesday, Dartmouth announced the hiring of Xander Centenari ’13 as the new men’s tennis head coach. Centenari took over from nine-year coach Chris Drake, who left for Yale University. Centenari had an extremely successful playing career at Dartmouth as a two-time captain before turning professional for four years.
As a player at Dartmouth, Centenari competed in both singles and doubles at No. 1 and 2 for his last three years. He won All-Ivy in both singles and doubles in 2011 and in doubles in 2013. As a senior, Centenari was awarded the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Northeast Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship Award. After his professional career saw him ranked as high as No. 536 in doubles and No. 1249 in singles, Centenari began coaching professionally, training two top-500 players.
University of South Florida named Centenari volunteer assistant coach for the 2017-2018 season, and he was promoted to assistant coach the next year. Under his guidance, the team won the American Athletic Conference and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. One of his players, Alberto Barroso Campos, was awarded AAC Player of the Year, while another, Chase Ferguson, was awarded Rookie of the Year.
First of all, how does it feel to be a part of the Dartmouth family again?
XC: It’s great, man. I mean I’m not sure how much you know about my story, but I was a Dartmouth ’13 so I’m coming back full-circle here. It’s great to be back up in Hanover.
What are some of the expectations you have going into the season?
XC: I think just to build on what the men’s tennis team has done over the last 10 years. I think we have a great group of guys and I expect us to put in great work day-to-day, which is going to give us the best chance to get the results we want.
Are there any players in particular that you think we should monitor heading into the season, especially considering what they have done in the past?
XC: I think Charlie Broom ’20 who is a senior this year and historically has played No. 1 for Dartmouth is definitely a player to watch. He’s a great guy, high-character kid and an excellent talent. So that’s that’s the guy to look out for.
Have you gotten involved with the recruiting process at all?
XC: I was formally hired this past Monday, so just a few days ago. But I was actually down in Delray Beach the week before, so as soon as I accepted, which was about 10 days ago, I started recruiting just because summer is a time that you have to absolutely capitalize on. I expect a lot of work ahead, but it’s super exciting.
I know that a lot of coaches take every match up one step at a time and they don’t look too far ahead on the schedule, but being that you are a Dartmouth alum and that have probably seen the whole schedule, is there any matchup that sticks out to you as a must-win match?
XC: Just in general, there’s always a big-build up to the Ivy season. It’s kind of hard to kind of pull one match that we’re gunning for because, like you said, most coaches say this, but they say it for a reason. We try to treat every match the same way because if we can go in and feel like the next match is the most important match, it’s going to give us the best chance to win.
Do you think it’s intimidating to play teams outside of the Ivy League? Or is it not intimidating, considering you also play some Southeastern Conference teams and a couple other teams that have much better recruiting abilities than a small school like Dartmouth?
XC: I think historically, especially recently, Dartmouth has been competing on a national scale in tennis. We have a lot of respect for a ton of teams out there, but I don’t think we’re intimidated by anybody. I think we trust what we do, and we love the challenge of playing teams both in and out of the Ivy League.
What does the timeline look like for season preparation? I know it’s a spring sport, but I assume team workouts are starting soon especially for the fall tournaments.
XC: The preseason is September 7, so we’ll have the guys get back on that day, and we get going right away. Tennis is a sport where there isn’t much of an offseason, anyway. Most guys are playing tennis year-round on summer breaks and over winter break. We want to make sure that guys are capitalizing, and whether they’re training at Dartmouth or not, our guys are always hungry to get better.
You also have a couple new players coming in — how will it be having them hit the ground running, and is there anything in particular that you have planned?
XC: I’m very excited for the guys we have coming in. I spoke with all of them on the phone already, and I think that in some sense, this is gonna be new for everybody. There’s going to be a period of everyone getting to know each other and how we do things. So I think typically there might be kind of an adjustment period for the players coming in, but what’s exciting about the start of the season is that it’s going to be sort of a blank slate for everyone.
On a similar note, the Dartmouth Invitational is on October 4. Do you think that’s a good benchmark for the team to try and see its progress heading into the winter and eventually the regular season?
XC: Yeah, every match is a great opportunity to see where you’re at, and the fact that we get to play a pretty big tournament like that at home at Dartmouth — you know guys get excited about that. They’ll have some fans out there. The community will come out and watch as well, so it’ll be a great test to see where things are and then we’ll just reassess after that and keep going forward.
Do you have any personal expectations for yourself heading into this season?
XC: The expectations that I put on myself all have to do with how connected I can get to the team. Not only to know what they need on the court, but also to learn and get to know who they are as people because I think that the more trust that we can develop across the board, the better chance we have to keep moving toward our goals. So expectations for myself are all around getting to know Dartmouth again and getting to know my guys.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.