Francesca Di Lorenzo, an All-American and NCAA doubles champion during her career with the Ohio State women’s tennis team, is in the tennis ‘bubble’ in New York, set for back-to-back tournaments at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center. The New Albany, Ohio, native reached her career high WTA singles rating of No. 118 Feb. 3 and is currently No. 128 in the world.
First up, Di Lorenzo received a wild card into the Western & Southern Open qualifying draw. She will open play Thursday, as the fourth match on court seven, facing No. 94-ranked Paula Badosa. Players who win two rounds of qualifying will advance to the main draw, with action in that bracket starting Saturday.
Following the Western & Southern Open (which is usually held in Cincinnati), Di Lorenzo will compete in the US Open. She received a wild card into the US Open qualifying rounds but has since moved into the Open main draw, with play starting Aug. 31.
Di Lorenzo played in the 2018 Western & Southern Open, falling in a first round qualifying match, and that same year won three rounds in qualifying to reach the main draw of the US Open, where she posted a first-round win. Di Lorenzo won a first round match in the 2019 US Open as well after receiving a main draw wild card. She played in the US Open qualifying rounds in both 2016 and ’17, falling in the first round.
As a Buckeye, Di Lorenzo won the NCAA Doubles Championship with Miho Kowase in 2016, the first NCAA title in program history. She was a three-time ITA national champion, claiming the USTA/ITA National Indoors title in New York twice and capturing the All-American Championship in 2016. She was a two-time singles All-American and a doubles All-American, as well as a CoSIDA Academic All-American. The 2017 Ohio State Female Athlete of the Year, Di Lorenzo, who was 74-7 overall in singles and 55-7 in doubles, received back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year awards. She and the squad won B1G regular season and tournament titles, reached the NCAA quarterfinals in 2016 and advanced to the NCAA semifinals in 2017. Di Lorenzo was a recipient of an Oracle US Tennis Award, a $100,000 grant to help develop the tennis careers of new American professionals,
After arriving in New York, Di Lorenzo took a few minutes for a Q&A with OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
How has 2020 been for you? Where and how have you spent your time? What were you able to do in terms of fitness and tennis?
2020 has definitely been a different year. I got to travel to Australia for the first time and play in Brisbane and then Melbourne for the Australian Open qualies, which was an incredible experience. I then came back to the U.S. and within a month everything started getting cancelled, beginning with Indian Wells the night before the tournament started. I flew back to Tampa which is where I’m based out of now and spent most of my time there quarantining. Luckily, I was still able to practice on a private court and do fitness outdoors so I was able to work on a few things and keep my shape for the most part during this time.
It was also nice to get a little bit of a break though and work on other aspects of my life. I tried roller blading, (which is actually much harder than it looks) but not to worry I had all my protective gear on while doing it and looked really cool. I took multiple yoga classes online and can almost stand on my head without falling (almost). I also baked a lot, maybe too much since I was the only one eating everything, and tried different dessert recipes. I’m not at the point yet though where I feel comfortable enough to have anyone actually try my desserts, because they’ve been hit or miss (usually miss) but will work on it for sure. My mom sends me different recipes and pictures of what she makes but our end results always look so different.
You played in The Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky, last week [reaching the third round of qualifying]. Was last week your first competitive matches since the pandemic started? How was it to get back to tournament play?
Last week in Lexington was my first tournament back, but throughout the summer I had been playing some exhibition matches in Florida so I did have some matches under my belt, but an actual tournament is definitely different than exhibition matches. It was so nice seeing all the players and everyone was just so grateful to be back playing that we were all in a really good mood. Everything is much different now with all the protocols that have to be followed, but as long as I have a chance to compete then I’m happy.
What is your set-up like in New York? What is the quarantine process?
Here in New York everyone is in a so called ‘bubble’. Kind of what you’ve seen in other sports like the NBA and NHL, we can’t leave the boundaries of the bubble and will be sent home if we do leave. The USTA and other staff have done a great job of making the hotel and site a fun and enjoyable atmosphere with the limited space we’re allowed to go. The site is completely empty in regards to people other than players, coaches and employees but there’s different games set up throughout the grounds for the players to enjoy like basketball and mini golf. In terms of quarantine, when every person arrives in New York they are immediately brought to the hotel, tested, and then quarantined until they receive their hopefully negative test results back. For me personally, I was quarantined in my room for 26 hours, but some other people have been shorter and others longer; it just depends on the day you arrive and how busy the testing center is.
Are you excited for the Western & Southern Open and then the US Open?
I’m extremely excited to play the Western & Southern Open and then the US Open. I was given a wildcard into qualifying for the W&S Open and ended up getting into the US Open on my own ranking so I cannot wait to play and compete. I’m thankful for the opportunity and all the work the organizers and staff have put into making these events possible. I think each player has so much more appreciation now for travelling and playing tennis professionally after not doing anything for six months so I feel like we’re all eager to get out and play.
Are you still working toward your Ohio State degree? How have you been able to balance professional tennis life with school?
I am still working on one day getting my degree from Ohio State. This is something that is really important to me. I had the option of transferring to an all-online school through the help of the WTA but I really want my degree to be from Ohio State. It has so much meaning to me and is where I started school and therefore where I want to finish it. I’ve been taking classes online since I’ve left college and took four classes online this summer semester. I was starting to become limited with my classes because the courses I needed were not being offered online, however with COVID forcing classes to go virtually I was able to really take advantage of that. I have 26 credits left (not that I’m counting or anything!) but it just takes so much longer to complete when you only take a couple classes a semester. At this point, my goal is to graduate before my little sister does (who is about to be a sophomore at Ohio State), so the race is on.
Photo credit USTA