Junior Tennis: Second Di Giulio aims to finish first

FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Joseph Di Giulio always kicked his brother Austin down with his old tennis gear. The nationally ranked player has dozens of outfits with the swoosh logo.

Austin no longer needs any hand-me-downs from his older brother. The 10-year-old said he has a new sponsor in Wilson.

Everything he wore on the court Thursday bore a W. The W that mattered most to the fourth-seeded Di Giulio was the one he earned in the round of 32 at the 108th annual Southern California Junior Sectional Championships.

The kid from Newport Beach easily won at Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club. Joseph approved of Austin's performance in which he knocked off Govind Nanda, 6-0, 6-1, to advance to the round of 16 in boys' singles action today.

Austin is the lone Di Giulio competing in the tournament because the 15-year-old Joseph is out with an elbow injury. The goal for Austin is to be the second Di Giulio boy to claim the crown.

Joseph has won the tournament in the 10-, 12- and 14-year-old divisions. It's Austin's turn to start his title run.

"I'm pretty confident that I can win this year," Austin said after he remembered how the tournament last year ended. Austin fell in the semifinals and then in the match for third place.

Each of those losses were suffered on the same court, No. 17.

Austin returned to the court Thursday and nothing got in the way this time. Austin overpowered his opponent from Redlands.

Nanda said very little, only speaking up the rare times he led in a game. Austin's racquet spoke for him as he swept the first set.

The second set appeared headed in the same manner. The only mishap came in the second game. Up, 40-15, Austin had some unforced errors and allowed Nanda to steal a game.

"I think I could've played a little bit better," Austin said as his brother stood nearby.

Austin said he doesn't get nervous when Joseph watches him play. Joseph, who lives and trains at the United States Tennis Assn. High Performance Training facility in Boca Raton, Fla., is in town to watch Austin play, rehabilitate his elbow and spend time with his family.

Joseph planned to enter the tournament, but he said his doctor told him he developed Little League elbow and he needed therapy and time to recover. The timing wasn't the best as Joseph turned 15 last week and aimed to win the Southern California Junior Sectional Championships in the 16s for the first time.

Helping Austin win here for the first time is making up for the setback. Joseph has been able to see Austin play twice in the tournament and he likes what he's seen so far. Austin's match today at 2:30 p.m. is against Alafia Ayeni of San Diego.

"It just reminds me of when I was younger," Joseph said. "I see myself out there."

Austin might not be wearing Joseph's old clothes, but he sure is performing at the tournament like his older brother.

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