Danielle Mills has never known a world without tennis.
Mills has been holding a racket and tennis ball since the age of three, which may also explain how she was able to start playing in some of the most competitive, professional tournaments around the world at the age of 14.
“I love tennis because it’s such a strategic sport which combines mental and physical aspects, and unlike many athletes, you have to have really good hand-eye coordination,” said Mills, a University of South Florida junior.
It has not been an easy journey from Rochester, NY, where tennis was almost an afterthought. Determined to make the most of her talents and motivated to be the best, Mills moved with her family to Florida where there was better competition and opportunities.
“The biggest adversity I had to go through was getting people to take me seriously and going from a really low level to a high level,” Mills said. “You had to prove yourself.”
Playing tennis professionally has allowed Mills to travel across every continent and compete alongside some of her idols, such as top-ranked tennis player Serena Williams.
After she refined her skills and earned a national ranking, Mills transferred from the University of Miami to USF in 2011. At USF, she plays on the tennis team and competes professionally. Mills is often traveling, practicing, or rehabbing her knee, which doesn’t allow much time for a college social life.
Mills said that although she wishes she could be a regular student, she wouldn’t trade the gifts tennis has given her.