Tennis brought this Bulldog all the way from Italy

Alessia Dario hasn’t always been a top-notch tennis player.

When Dario was 11, she lost her interest in gymnastics. Meanwhile, her father picked up a tennis racket after 20 years and started playing again with his friends.

She went with her dad and told him: “ OK, I’ll come with you, watch and see if I like it.’ So I tried it, and I loved it,” Dario said.

Now nine years later, her love of the game has brought her all the way to Fresno State.

Dario is from Francenigo, Italy, a small village near Venice. Living in the US is very different from what she is accustomed.

“Everyone knows pretty much everyone [in Francenigo]” Dario said. “It’s very small.”

Dario is an only child. All of her family and friends are still in Italy. She is the first to play sports and move to the U.S., she said.

When she was recruited, the Bulldogs’ previous head coach showed her videos of the facility. After watching and getting a feel for the atmosphere of the program, she was ready to represent Fresno State.

“I came to visit, and I really liked it,” Dario said. “I thought that’s a good place for me.”

The biggest challenge for Dario when she moved to Fresno was learning to take care of herself. Like most college students, it’s a challenge to cook, clean and manage her time and finances on her own.

As a freshman, Dario appeared in 16 matches, boasting a 17-9 singles record and a 14-6 record in tournament play. She was named to the spring Academic All-Mountain West team and earned 2017-18 Mountain West Scholar-Athlete honors.

This 2018-2019 season has brought a whole new team with a new coach, Dario said.

Coach Ric Mortera joined the Bulldogs in August of this year after three years as associate head coach of Texas Tech’s women’s tennis program.

Mortera said his main priority right now is getting the athletes together and bonded like a family leading up to the spring. The team is looking forward to the spring when team events begin as opposed to individual play.

Dario said the team gets along really well. They have weekly team dinners, sometimes with the coaches, and study together in the evenings.

Last year, Dario was the only freshman. This year, as a sophomore, she is one of the oldest on the team. Dario said the freshmen are energetic and have been a positive influence on the team.

Dario begins her day promptly at 6:30 a.m. to start practice by 8 a.m.

She is inspired by Roger Federer, she said without hesitation. Federer is a Swiss professional tennis player currently ranked No. 3 in the world in men’s singles tennis by the Association of Tennis Professionals.

“When he plays he is perfect–his technique and everything,” Dario said. “He is so relaxed, and he is so confident. He doesn’t show his emotion too much. That’s a good thing in tennis. He’s really good.”

When she’s not practicing or conditioning, Dario is studying business with hopes of pursuing either marketing or business management.

“I think [school] here is easier,” Dario said. “I didn’t go to the university [in Italy], of course. But compared to what my friends are doing, I think it’s easier.”

Mortera had many positive things to say about Dario’s future at Fresno State.

“She’s been such a positive influence on the younger ones,” Mortera said. “She’s an excellent role model. She has this great bar of excellence that she strives to do both on the court and in the classroom. She’s been a really great representation of what we’re hoping to build the program about.”

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