Patrick Daciek

Patrick Daciek of Severna Park competes in the Chartwell Classic to prepare for the U.S. Open National Playoff. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun / August 7, 2013)

On the green clay tennis courts of Chartwell Country Club in Severna Park during a Wednesday afternoon in early August, Patrick Daciek is bursting with energy, ready for a challenge.

The Severna Park graduate is about to play in the quarterfinals of the Chartwell Classic, his leadup event to this week's U.S. Open National Playoffs, a tournament pitting the 13 United States Tennis Assocation regional champions against each other in New Haven, Conn., with a spot in the U.S. Open qualifying rounds on the line.

All the work Daciek (pronounced DAY-cee-ick), the Mid-Atlantic champion, has put in over the past two months will culminate this week, and his match at Chartwell against Alex Sidney is one of his final tune-ups before traveling to Connecticut.

The expectation from his camp heading into this Aug. 7 contest is that he is nearing peak health and performance, just in time for his most important tournament yet.

"If my level is there, I'll get the results," Daciek says.

He starts by returning Sidney's serve, hopping in anticipation of the bout. Daciek, 23, pounces on shots and sprints and slides across the court, nearly impossible to pass early on.

He wins six of his first seven points on return and breaks Sidney twice, racing to a 4-1 lead.

But then, something goes wrong. He starts feeling weak, even a little dizzy, and the first set tightens up at 5-4.

At 40-30 in the following game, Daciek, the tournament's No. 3 seed, battles through and wins the point, taking the set, 6-4. His opponent throws his racket in frustration.

Game on.

Learning the game

Between his time on the court and in the classroom as a teenager, Daciek always preferred playing tennis. As he says, "Tennis was a family affair."

His father, Michael, taught him how to play at the age of 4. His sister, Allison, was his first hitting partner. And when he began training at the Tennis Center at College Park, his mother, Kathleen, would drive him there every day.

In high school, he would train on the court for three hours every day, followed by an hour-and-a-half of conditioning. Before he left for school in the mornings, he would exercise on a stationary bike.

"My whole life revolved around it," Daciek said. "I started really loving it when I was around 14, and it ended up being great."

Through the years, as he became more passionate about tennis, the results began to show. When he was in the 16-and-under age group, he was ranked No. 2 in the Mid-Atlantic. At the under-18 mark, he was No. 1 in the region.

Some of his singles and doubles wins were over opponents such as Milos Raonic, now the world's No. 13 player, Chase Buchanan, a top 400 player, and Ryan Lipman, who was ranked top 10 in the country as a junior.

"There are some kids who burn out and aren't even playing tennis by the time they are 16," Michael Daciek said. "We kind of took [Patrick] along, having fun, and then, if you really have a passion for it, then you pursue it."

As his results on the court improved, colleges began to take notice. For Daciek, though, two schools stood out: Maryland, where he trained, and Virginia Tech.

When he was younger, his father, a Virginia Tech graduate, would take him to Blacksburg on weekends to watch football games at Lane Stadium. He grew up loving the Hokies.