Injuries are, unfortunately, something that every high-level athlete has to deal with at some point or another during their careers. The ability to work through those injuries and overcome them is one indication of a dedicated athlete, and being able to do so usually has a positive impact on them moving forward.
For Diane Durante, a freshman at Manhasset High School who trains out of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy’s Long Island annex at Sportime Syosset, an injured wrist affected her tennis play for the better part of 2022.
“I sprained my left wrist, and then developed tendinitis, and it really stopped me from being able to hit a simple backhand,” said Durante, who has played for Manhasset varsity tennis since seventh grade and was an All-State doubles player this past high school season. “I was playing a match one day and it really started hurting, and then when I went to my lesson the next day it felt even worse. I played through it and didn’t use my left hand at all. I would try to just hit forehands, and if someone hit to my backhand, I would try to run around it, or slice it. It was really challenging.”
While Durante played through the injury, it did limit her ability to play her best tennis. As she played through it, she also was seeking treatment to alleviate herself of the injury and get back to feeling 100 percent physically.
“It did help me improve my slice a lot, and a lot of girls in the Eastern Section don’t like playing against slices, so it sometimes worked to my advantage,” she said. “But it also brought down my confidence because if someone hit a ball hard to my backhand, I had a hard time getting it back and being consistent with it.”
The father of one of her friends who competes in USTA tournaments with Durante is a physical therapist, and she visited him frequently to undergo acupuncture treatment, something she said helped immensely.
“I would go there and he would stick needles in my hand, and put me through these other exercises. Over time it helped so much. After months of treatment, it is fully better now, and I am back to where I was.”
Now fully healthy and with the high school tennis season behind her, Durante can now put the majority of her time and energy into her private training and her tournament schedule.
Between starting high school earlier this fall, injuring her wrist, and competing on her high school team, those things had to take a backseat for much of the fall, but Durante is excited to get back to her normal training schedule, improve her ranking and continue playing in the highest level of tournaments.
“Lawrence Kleger and I are teaming up as coaches for Diane this past year, and now that Diane is finally healthy, we can focus on continuing to improve her overall game,” said Mike Kossoff, Director of Tennis at Sportime Syosset. “Lawrence and I both feel that although she has a few weapons in place, there is room for growth across every aspect of her game. That excites both of us and we look forward to seeing her reach her potential on the court.”
Durante dedicates a lot of her time to her tennis, practicing for about three hours a day, five or six days a week between her on-court training and off-court fitness. She began training at Sportime when she was in fifth grade, and now as a ninth-grader, has seen her game develop immensely over that time span. As we head into the 2023, Durante will continue that work alongside Kossoff, Kleger and the Sportime training staff.
“Her shot selection, along with her movement, are two aspects of her game that we are focusing on in the short term,” Kossoff added. “If Diane continues to put in the work on and off the court, we don’t see why she won’t be a highly-ranked national player.”
Over the last several months, Durante has been competing in some of the biggest junior tournaments in the country, including Super Nationals and Zonals, putting that hard work and training to the test. Most recently, despite being 14-years-old, has been playing up in the 16s divisions of these events, further proof of her continued progress and improvements.
Despite all of this time spent playing tennis, Durante has not let it affect her school work, as for the last three years she has been a member of her school’s honor roll. That is no different this year, as despite being in her first year of high school, Durante has been able to balance all of the things she has on her plate.
“This past year was very challenging because it was the start of the school year, my first year of high school, and my third year of playing high school tennis,” she said. “I know that three out of the five days of the week I am going to have matches after school and being at school very late, all while knowing I have homework and studying to do when I get home. It set me back a bit in terms of my tennis, because I wasn’t able to do all the outside training I wanted to, between matches and practices. Now during the winter, I am able to go to my private practice right after school, and play tournaments on the weekends. I am just able to do more now.”
Durante is still unsure if she will play high school tennis next fall, but what she is sure of is her work ethic, and her desire for continuing to improve as a tennis player. When she isn’t on court, Durante likes to spend time with her friends like any normal teenager, as well as bake and cook in her free time. This summer, she even got some of her non-tennis friends into pickleball, where her tennis skills translated nicely.
But her biggest passion remains, of course, tennis, and as Kossoff said, as she continues to work on her game, it will be exciting to see what is to come for her.
“Heading into this winter, I just want to get a lot better, and become much more mentally strong on the court,” she said of her goals. In the long term, I would love to play college tennis, and get into a good school for my tennis.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.