Hugo Di Feo may not have achieved his dream of playing on the ATP Tour, but he found another way to spend time on the courts at IGA Stadium during Rogers Cup presented by National Bank.
As a player, the Montrealer spent three and a half years at Tennis Canada’s National Training Centre and played in the junior events of all four Grand Slam tournaments. He even qualified for the round of 16 at the 2013 Junior Australian Open and was ranked as high as No.19 on the junior circuit.
Now 23, he is fresh off four years in the United States, where he studied and competed in tennis at Ohio State University. He hadn’t even settled in and started looking for a job before a great proposal came his way.
“There was a coaching conference on Friday with Simona Halep and her coach, Darren Cahill,” explained Di Feo. “My former coach, Séverine Tamborero, was organizing the conference and found out that Halep was looking for a hitting partner. That’s how I was put in contact with her.”
And, so, Di Feo got to hit a few balls with the World No.1 at the start of the tournament and two or three times during the week. His services had also been required in 2016.
“This year, I only hit with Halep a few times because I was added at the last minute. But two years ago, I was out there about five hours a day.”
Isade Juneau, another player from Québec, has had the same opportunity at every women’s edition of Rogers Cup since 2008. In 2016, he was even chosen to work with Venus Williams.
Halep and her coach didn’t make any special requests, and Di Feo was surprised to see that some sessions simply aimed to help the No.1 get used to the courts in Montréal.
“From the first day, her coach really insisted on consistency,” said Di Feo. “He wanted me to put a lot of balls in play to make her work and get her used to the conditions. It was interesting to see that, in the beginning, it wasn’t about power and winners but about regularity.”
Like Juneau, Di Feo has chosen to focus his career on coaching and is working toward his certification. There’s no doubt that watching a legend like Darren Cahill in action with Simona Halep has motivated him to stay the course.