Get to Know: Ohio State's
Francesca Di Lorenzo
Pat Mitsch | November 4, 2016
If someday Francesca Di Lorenzo makes the walk on court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium during the US Open, perhaps then a group of people on the southern coast of Italy will have an epiphany.
Di Lorenzo was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Columbus, Ohio, but her parents both immigrated to America from Salerno, Italy. Di Lorenzo’s entire extended family still lives there, and, according to the 19-year old Ohio State sophomore, they don’t quite grasp why her parents have made such an investment in her tennis career.
It’s not for lack of success thus far. Di Lorenzo is the No. 3-ranked collegiate singles player in the country. She reached the semifinals of the US Open Junior Championships in 2015. And she’s the defending champion at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, where USTA.com spoke with her after her title defense got off to a smooth start, with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Nevada’s Claudia Herrero.ADVERTISEMENT
USTA.com: Your parents are from Italy but you were born in the U.S. When did your parents come to the States?
Francesca Di Lorenzo: Both my parents are from the same town: Salerno. They got married there, they went to college in Italy and then moved to Los Angeles around 25 (years old), and then from there they moved to Pittsburgh, which is where my siblings and I were born, although my brother was born in LA. Then, when I was around 6 or 7, my dad got a job offer in Columbus. He’s a pediatric gastroenterologist. We moved to Columbus, and we’ve been there ever since.
USTA.com: Why did your parents leave Italy for America?
Francesca Di Lorenzo: After they got married, they moved because it’s a better life in the U.S. All my family lives in Italy – we have nobody here. There are better jobs here, better education. I think they just wanted to raise a family in the U.S.
USTA.com: Do you ever go back to Italy?
Francesca Di Lorenzo: I haven’t been in two years, but before that we went every year. This year, I’m going to go during Christmas. It’s really nice to just see everybody for like 10 days. The views are unbelievable, but the food is the main reason I get excited for it. I love the mozzarella and pizza and everything. It doesn’t even compare. Besides seeing everybody, I get the most excited about the food.
USTA.com: Does your family in Italy know about your tennis career?
Francesca Di Lorenzo: They know I’m a tennis player. I don’t know if they get the full extent of, like, why my parents spend so much money on me. I think they do get that I travel and play a lot. When I was in juniors, they saw me play in Italy, which was exciting, at an ITF tournament. I think they got it a little bit more then.
USTA.com: When did you start playing tennis?
Francesca Di Lorenzo: I probably picked up a racquet when I was 6 or 7, but not seriously. I didn’t play in any tournaments until I was 11. It was a little bit late, I guess you could say. I played soccer and basketball, and I’m one of four kids. My mom was super busy. I actually liked soccer the most. Then I started playing more tennis. I liked the individual aspect of it. I started playing better and better, and my mom made me choose because it was just too much driving for her. So I chose tennis.
USTA.com: What was it like traveling for tennis and still attending your local high school?
Francesca Di Lorenzo: I missed a lot of school, but my school was actually really cool about it. They let me out a little bit early, so that was super helpful. All the teachers were really on board with helping me out when I left. I didn’t really go to school that much, especially my senior year.
USTA.com: A lot of juniors who travel choose online schooling. What was their reaction when you would tell them you still went to your local high school?
Francesca Di Lorenzo: They were pretty surprised. It’s tough, being gone so long. I think the most I missed in a row was two-and-a-half weeks, but still that’s a lot of time away from school. It’s interesting to them because a lot of them, I think, started in sixth grade with online schooling, so they don’t really know about going to school. The social aspect of it, I think, is really important, even for just a few hours. There’s so much time in the day, even if you leave at like, 11 a.m. or 12 p.m., you have 12 to 6, or even later, to play tennis. I think that’s more than enough time. I think it’s important to have at least a little bit of a balance there, or you’ll just go crazy sometimes.
USTA.com: Did you ever talk about moving to Florida to train year-round?
Francesca Di Lorenzo: I really wanted to, at one point, go to Florida, because I was having a hard time finding people to hit with. But my parents thought if I was at an academy, maybe I’d overdo it there, wouldn’t still have the same passion for the game. Staying in Columbus forced me to do things on my own, like hitting serves for 30 minutes every day just to get the extra tennis. A big part was two of my coaches – Ty Tucker and Ann Grossman – were there, and I was able to work with them.
USTA.com: Was there a moment you realized you could be competitive at a high level?
Francesca Di Lorenzo: I think I finaled the 16s Clay Courts (she reached the final of the USTA Girls’ 16s National Clay Court Championships in 2012), and it was completely unexpected. I think I barely got into the tournament. I got to the final there and, I think, lost in three sets, but at that point I was like, “Wow, I really think I can compete with a lot of these girls.”
USTA.com: In 2015, you made the semifinals of the US Open Junior Championships, then won this tournament a few
months later. Did that give you confidence?
Francesca Di Lorenzo: Yeah, it definitely gives you confidence, being able to compete with the top juniors, and doing well brought confidence into my fall season and into the spring as well. College is very, very competitive. I think a lot of people should consider college because it gives you a lot of competition. I think I played at least 40 matches last year, and that’s singles only. It’s a good stepping stone, and I love my team and my coaches and want to continue doing it.
USTA.com: Were you always going to go to school?
Francesca Di Lorenzo: I think the path was always college for me. My parents were very focused on my education, so I’m going to stay in college as long as I can and hopefully get a degree. Depending on how I do, I’ll see how it goes.
USTA.com: Do you have any timetable for turning pro?
Francesca Di Lorenzo: My goal is to obviously be pro at some point. Do I know when? I don’t. But whenever I leave, I want to leave with confidence and have a good pro ranking established already. Once I feel like I’ve achieved everything I want to achieve and have maximized what I can do in college, then I’ll leave. Whenever I decide, it’ll probably be last minute. After the summer, I always want to see how I can do because I don’t want to make any decisions until I feel completely ready.