Toronto’s Steven Diez was once ranked in the top 165 tennis players in the world.
With plenty of hard work, perseverance and a little good fortune, the 27-year-old Canadian hopes to one day regain the status he enjoyed in 2016.
Diez, who has dual Canadian/Spanish citizenship, is seeded second among the 32 players on the singles draw at the Kelowna Futures Tennis Tournament.
Like Diez, most players this week at the Parkinson Recreation Centre are looking to earn valuable points to pave the way onto the ATP Tour and possibly into Grand Slam events.
A former Davis Cup player with Canada, Diez said there is a fine line between the calibre of players ranked between 100 and 400 in the world. He says what separates players at the upper level of the game is related more to psychological dynamics than the physical ones.
“All the players in that range are at pretty much at a similar level, except the top end guys,” said Diez, who is currently ranked No. 327 in the world. “I think when you have some momentum, and you feel that confidence you have to grab it and keep on going with it for as long as you can.
“Once you start moving up, there’s more points, there’s more money up there, it’s easier,” he added. “It’s more mental thing than anything.”
Like most professional sports, Diez says finding success in the ultra-competitive tennis world requires immense focus, commitment and dedication. It means living a life centred almost solely on a single pursuit where other aspects life often take a backseat to tennis.
Still, growing up in a tennis-oriented family Diez developed a passion for the sport early and hasn’t looked back since.
“It’s a dream,” said Diez. “It’s like a job, too, but it’s awesome in that you get to travel, compete and see the world. It’s not easy leaving family and friends behind, you go to bed early, you don’t go out that much, both those are things you have to accept to do this.
“My father played, my brother played, I basically grew up with a racket in my hand,” he added. “It’s what I love to do.”
Diez will take to the court in Kelowna on Wednesday afternoon for his first-round match against Alexander Day.
Play continues throughout the week, with the men’s singles final of the $25,000 tournament set for Sunday, July 1 at 1 p.m.
Storm causes havoc
When tournament director Joachim Nierfeld arrived at the Parkinson Recreation Centre Monday at 7 a.m., his heart skipped a few beats.
The windstorm which blew through Kelowna on Sunday night left the site of the Kelowna Futures Tennis Tournament in a state of disarray. Five of the seven tents on site had been blown down, windscreens had been torn off, while debris was scattered in every direction, rendering the courts unplayable.
With just three hours to go, Nierfeld feared the tournament would have to be delayed well into the day on Monday.
Then, his knights in shining armour arrived at the scene.
“Without me even asking, 10 to 12 volunteers showed up and started getting everything back in place,” said Nierfeld.
“I was very nervous about what we were going to do, I thought there’s no way we’re going to be ready. It wouldn’t have happened without their help, we are grateful to them, they’re the reason the tournament started on time.”
For more information on the Kelowna Futures Tennis Tournament, visit kelownafuturestennis.com