Jan. 23, 2006
Click here for an Associated Press article about David DiLucia taking over as Lindsay Davenport’s coach.
Notre Dame graduate David DiLucia – the only five-time All-American in Irish men’s tennis history – recently left his position with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to take over as the personal coach for the world’s #1-ranked women’s player, Lindsay Davenport. Both have received much media coverage over the past week, as Davenport is the only American (man or woman) remaining in the singles draws of the year’s first grand slam, the Australian Open.
Davenport, who finished both 2004 and ’05 as the world #1, ended her affiliation with former coach Adam Peterson and hired DiLucia in late December. He then moved from Key Biscayne, Fla., to join Davenport for a brief training stint in southern California. The pair went to Hong Kong for an exhibition event to begin 2006 and then headed down under to Australia in preparation for the season-opening grand slam.
“I was certainly honored by Lindsay’s request to work with her in 2006,” said DiLucia. “It is definitely a unique experience to work with a grand slam champion who has the desire to continually improve. However, what I find most impressive with Lindsay, aside from her talents on the court, is her intelligent, good-hearted nature.”
Davenport has been ranked #1 for 98 weeks in her career, which ranks her sixth all-time in WTA Tour history behind only Steffi Graf (377 weeks at #1), Martina Navratilova (331), Chris Evert (262), Martina Hingis (209), and Monica Seles (178). But she has to her credit only three grand-slam titles – none since winning the Australian Open in 2000. Davenport – who lost in the final of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2005 – has publicly stated that her only professional goal now is to win grand-slam titles, an effort that DiLucia will be spearheading.
David DiLucia – shown here as a member of the Philadelphia Freedoms in 2001 – defeated a pair of players that would ascend to the world’s #1 ranking during his pro career.
“I felt like I needed or wanted a little bit more help and interjection,” said Davenport of her coaching change. “I think after a few years anyway, it was time for me maybe to get some new life and some new ideas. I have to say I’ve had a really great time the last six weeks or so with David. It’s been really interesting, and he’s made me kind of think about and work on a lot of things that I really haven’t done in a while. Tactics. Talking about mental approaches, talking about certain things in my game and being really a lot more specific than I have been in quite some time. Hopefully, whether it’s here or in four months or in two months, I can get my game to an even higher level.”
The Australian Open has seen all 12 American men lose prior to the quarterfinals in singles, while top-seeded Davenport is the only one of a dozen American women still standing. A 6-2, 6-4 victory over former U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia has put her into the quarterfinals for the ninth time in her career. Next up will be her biggest challenge yet, which will come in the form of former world #1 and four-time grand-slam champion Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium, who is currently ranked eighth in the world. If the seedings hold, Davenport would then face #4 Maria Sharapova of Russia in the semifinals and #2 Kim Clijsters of Belgium in Saturday’s final. ESPN2 is providing exclusive coverage of the event, and the showdown between Davenport and Henin-Hardenne can be seen live at 3:30 a.m. ET (7:30 p.m. in Australia) on Tuesday morning.
DiLucia’s storied career at Notre Dame – which still stands as the best by any player under 19th-year head coach Bob Bayliss – saw him ascend to the national #1 rankings in both singles and doubles, earning All-America accolades in singles in 1990, ’91, and ’92, as well as in doubles in his final two campaigns. He still holds several Irish career records, including those for singles victories (146-33 record), combined singles and doubles wins (219-63), wins at No. 1 singles (90-11), and wins at No. 1 doubles (45-19). DiLucia is the only ND player ever to be ranked #1 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) in singles and is the only Notre Dame player to have won more than 37 singles matches in a season (38-9 in 1988-89 and 46-7 in 1990-91). In his final season, DiLucia turned in an incredible 21-1 mark at No. 1 singles, leading the Irish to the title match of the NCAA Championship.
“Coach Bayliss has a tremendous wealth of knowledge and was instrumental in the success I achieved at Notre Dame,” says DiLucia. “The greatest lesson he imparted during my freshman year centered on the theme of accountability. I vividly remember having breakfast with him at the Morris Inn when I was struggling in my first fall season. He simply stated that with the lofty goals I had set for myself, I needed to make sure daily that my actions were commensurate with those desires. Those comments have served me well beyond college. Notre Dame will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I look forward to returning soon.”
As a professional, DiLucia played in the singles main draw of every grand-slam event and notched wins over such players as former world #1s Gustavo Kuerten and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, as well as Mark Philippoussis and David Wheaton. He peaked at 248th in the world in singles and 92nd in doubles and went on to clinch the 2001 World Team Tennis title for the Philadelphia Freedoms before retiring and joining the USTA staff as a coach for its high performance program in 2004.
DiLucia is one of several former Irish tennis players who have gone on to successful coaching career. Brian Kalbas (’89) was an assistant at Notre Dame immediately after graduation and then moved on to be the head women’s tennis coach at William & Mary, being named ITA National Coach of the Year in 1998. He is now in his third season as the head coach at North Carolina, which has been a staple among the national top 15 during his time there. Doubles All-American Andy Zurcher (’94) also was an assistant under Bayliss, and he was tabbed the 1997 ITA Midwest Region Assistant Coach of the Year. Three-time All-American Ryan Sachire (’00) recently became the assistant coach for Baylor, the 2004 NCAA champions and ’05 runners-up.