LeSaldo hits the mark as coach
Yet another Bajan has made it big on the tennis courts.
Former Fed Cup player and captain Richele LeSaldo is making a name for herself as a coach, having already impressed the international tennis world through her work with top 100 junior Dalayna Hewitt.
Both LeSaldo and Hewitt were in Barbados a couple weeks ago getting in some training with Darian King before moving on to Florida to hit with US Open quarter-finalist Kaia Kanepi and Novak Djokovic’s former coach Dusan Vemic.
“I was head coach for eight and a half years at the top hotel on the island, but I felt stifled professionally, so when the time came for me to make a decision to get back into the real world of tennis, where I could use my experience as a player and knowledge as a coach while continuing my professional development, I jumped at the opportunity,” explained LeSaldo.
“And working with Dalayna has been an absolute pleasure as she’s a great kid on and off
the court and we have a fantastic dynamic. She has massive potential. She could be a top ten player and win Grand Slam titles. Saying the sky is the limit sounds so cliché, but it truly is for her.”
LeSaldo is just the latest home-grown talent to make waves following King’s recent achievements that have seen him set a number of firsts as a Bajan on the ATP tour.
But Barbados is really starting to make an impact in the coaching circles, as King’s older brother Christopher has served as his full-time coach for these last four historic seasons.
The other half of Barbados’ dynamic Davis Cup duo, Haydn Lewis, is also drawing eyes, having moved Raymond Sarmiento from 700 in the world to No. 287 at one point, while watching the American advance to the second round of qualifying at the US Open.
“I’m always happy and proud to see fellow Bajans [such as Chris, Darian and Haydn] on tour at the big tennis events. To be making a big difference on such a big stage is something we should all be proud of,” LeSaldo said.
But her focus is squarely on producing another American great, as the 2018 season fast approaches for Hewitt with a couple professional tournaments and the Junior Australian Open.
And the partnership is already bearing fruit, as the world 83rd-ranked junior advanced to the round of 16 at this year’s US Open juniors and won two major doubles titles after just hooking up with LeSaldo in July.
“She was one of my friend’s coach and I really liked her and I kind of stole her, so she’s mine now,” said the towering 17-year-old Dalayna, who is sponsored by Nike and Yonex.
“And the partnership has been really good. I love the things she’s teaching me and all the stuff we’re working on. Plus, I got to hit with Darian King and spend my birthday in Barbados, so that’s cool.” (JM)