US Open finalists Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci are not the only players of Italian heritage doing well at this US Open.
In junior girls’ action, American Francesca Di Lorenzo, who boasts a combined ranking of No. 26, has carved a path into the singles and doubles semifinals.
Although Di Lorenzo is Pittsburgh-born and Columbus, Ohio, reared, she is first-generation American.
Di Lorenzo’s parents came from Salerno, Italy, making the move to the United States to pursue advanced degrees. Her dad is a gastroenterologist, and her mom teaches college Italian. Not surprisingly, Francesca, third in line of their four children, speaks close to fluent Italian.
So it came as no surprise on Friday that Di Lorenzo was one American player on the grounds who regarded the women’s final lineup with some excitement.
“Oh my God, it’s been a good tournament with Vinci and Pennetta,” said the 18 year old. “It’s nice to have some Italians coming through and doing well, more than one of them.”
In the big picture, however, Di Lorenzo put aside the Italian pride when it came to her own success as a player who flies the stars-and-stripes when she steps on court.
On Friday, Di Lorenzo outlasted Iryna Shymanovic of Belarus, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, in the singles quarterfinals. On Thursday, she and Brazilian Luisa Stefani, as the fifth seeds, took out Russian fourth seeds Anna Blinkova and Oleysa Pervushina, 7-6, 6-7, [10-7].
“I’m liking it here,” said Di Lorenzo, smiling. “It seems to be clicking. It’s been a good tournament so far. Hopefully I can keep it up.”
As a youngster, Di Lorenzo was actually more appreciative of playing soccer. She liked the team atmosphere and played in a travel soccer league. Tennis at that time was a secondary pastime. But then her mom told her that juggling both sports, as well as meeting the needs of her three other siblings, was becoming too much of a burden, so she had to give up one.
The ultimatum given, Di Lorenzo relied on a recent occurrence in picking tennis to follow.
“She told me I had to choose between soccer and tennis,” Di Lorenzo admitted. “A week earlier, I beat the top girl in our group, and I was so happy. I loved being out there on my own. I liked the individual part of it, so I quit the travel soccer team, which I was pretty mad about at the time, but it’s worked out well.”
From the time she was 10, Di Lorenzo’s tennis coach has been former touring pro Ann Grossman, a Columbus-based, former Top 30-ranked player who posted wins over Martina Navratilova, Mary Joe Fernandez and Zina Garrison.
Di Lorenzo believes one of the benefits of working with a previous star of the WTA Tour is the insight Grossman can offer of life as a pro. And it sounds as if Grossman doesn’t hold back on the difficulties presented by choosing the pro lifestyle.
“Ann says it’s so tough,” Di Lorenzo admitted. “You’re on your own, pretty much. It’s not an easy life. You live paycheck to paycheck. It’s something I want to do, something I want to pursue, hopefully. It’s something you have to be completely, 100 percent committed to because if you’re not, you’re not going to get that far.”
For now, Di Lorenzo has no plans to head off to the pro tour in the immediate future. The only place she’s going after the US Open is back to school.
Technically speaking, she is in her third week as an Ohio State freshman, although she’s only attended two weeks of classes.
While she’s been busy reaching the US Open girls’ singles and doubles semifinals, with hopes of taking it even further, classes in math, physics (what she referred to as jock physics designed to be easier), sociology, sports history and a course meant to help students select a major, have continued on in her absence.
“I’m going back to school after this but hopefully not soon,” Di Lorenzo said. “It should be interesting when I get back. I’ve looked at some of my grades, and they’re not so good right now. So I’ve got to get on that when I get back. Hopefully, they’ll be a little bit understanding.”
Di Lorenzo laughed at the suggestion that winning a trophy or two, if possible, might help persuade the professors of a little leniency.