Saturday, May 25, 2024

Diego’s star on the rise

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Diego Quispe-Kim is winning titles all over the place and the Aussies have even tried to snap him up. Photo Nick Krause

Rising tennis star Diego Quispe-Kim was just three-years-old when he picked up a racket.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

His dad and coach Juan Quispe-Chavez – a tennis coach at top private school Saint Kentigern College where Diego is a student – believes his son is a natural.

Juan, from Peru, hoped his boy would follow South America’s favourite code, football.

“I wanted my son to play soccer. I didn’t think he would play tennis.”

Christchurch-born Diego, 16, was playing football as a three-year-old and a friend of Juan’s suggested the youngster try tennis.

“So he played tennis after soccer and little by little there was no more soccer.”

The left hander’s innate dexterity in the sport quickly became obvious. When Diego was 5, he played in the U10s – and won.

Rules meant the youngster could not play interclub for U9s but an exemption meant he could participate when he was 6.

He’s won the national U12s, U14s and U16s championships.

“Now he’s playing U18s – we’ll see what happens,” says his dad.

Pakuranga’s Diego Quispe-Kim with his mum Yun Mi Kim (left), dad Juan Quispe-Chavez and Pakuranga Tennis Club president Jenny Richardson.

Equally astonishing is Diego’s outstanding performance on grass – he prefers the clay surface like his idol and also a left-hander, Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

Diego won the national grass court open men’s championships in 2020 and 2021 aged 15.

The Taranaki Senior Open Lawn Tennis Championships were held in Hawera, New Zealand’s Wimbledon.

He and his family lived in New Plymouth for six months following six months in Ashburton before the move to Auckland so Juan could try and secure a position as a tennis coach.

Fast forward to just a couple of weeks ago in Australia where Diego came close to clinching a big title at the

ITF World Tennis Tour Juniors J3 in Mornington, the Gallipoli Youth Cup (U18s).

Of the Kiwis who played, Diego was the only one to advance beyond round two. He beat the NSW No 1, the Victoria No 1 and the Queensland No 2 to get to the semi-final where he fell to Australian Hayden Jones 2-6, 6-0, 7-5.

Diego was disappointed he didn’t nail the win but accepts that there have got to be losses at this level.

Diego Quispe-Kim with a few recent tennis tournament trophies.

His eyes are firmly on the prize, and that’s to play professional tennis.

In the middle-term though, he aspires to securing a scholarship into a top American college.

He has to keep up his studies while training and playing tennis on top of travelling to play in Junior ITF tournaments.

Pakuranga Tennis Club is right behind him. “We are working with his school to achieve best outcomes for both studies and tennis for Diego,” says club president Jenny Richardson.

And the support has been substantial. The club managed to raise $8200 in four days to get Diego to the recent ITF tournament in Australia. Now there’s a bigger goal.

“We need to raise around$15,000-$20,000 to get Diego to Europe during the July school holidays to play on grass and compete at a higher level,” says Richardson.

Diego knows there is much to do to achieve his goals. “I’ve got some ranking points now. My goal is to go to Egypt in September.”

Diego – who is 172cm tall and still growing – currently has a top speed slice-serve of around 165km/h.

This year he won all three Junior International Tennis Federation tournaments in New Zealand, beating New Zealand’s best 18-year-olds, enabling him to play in all four Grand Slams, via the qualifying rounds.

Gilles De Gouy, Tennis Director at Saint Kentigern College, believes Diego is shaping up well. “He’s a nice boy and should be supported,” De Gouy says.

“He has quite a good understanding of what’s going on by spending a lot of time on the court.

“Because he’s not a powerful player yet…he’s going to get more powerful through physical conditioning.”

Diego understands this and is already considering how to build this power without sacrificing his speed and mobility, skills which catch many of his opponents out.

And pushing his body to its limits will also take its toll. Others are stepping up to assist. Byron Kemp of Platinum Chiropractic has offered to work – free – with Diego on performance-based chiropractic care and treatment.

This care is something that will allow Diego to maintain good health and function, whilst optimising body function and performance.

Diego’s results have not gone unnoticed of course. Tennis NZ knows him well.

“Yes Diego is certainly on our radar,” Tennis NZ CEO Julie Paterson told the Times.

“Tennis NZ coach Matt Alexander accompanied the players who went to Melbourne.

Diego has been offered opportunities through the Tennis NZ programme and he has worked with our coaches previously.”

Diego’s father hopes Tennis NZ can do more as costs to get to ranking tournaments are prohibitive.

“We would like better support from Tennis NZ as Diego needs to travel overseas to work on his world junior ranking.”

Diego, like his parents, is very humble. Juan and wife Yun Mi Kim, from South Korea, met a Canterbury University. They get right in behind their boy. And so does the Pakuranga Tennis Club.

Juan is grateful for everyone who has contributed to his son’s tennis progression.

“Diego and my family appreciate the massive support from the community of Pakuranga Tennis Club and Chinese community and also Parnell Tennis Club for the support,” says Juan.

Diego is the current club champion of both clubs.

“They don’t push him, he is dedicated himself,” says Richardson.

“Diego is well-liked and gives back to the club. He comes to the club and hits with younger kids, he gives them tips and teaches them footwork.

“As an example, a few weeks ago there was a junior tournament, below his level so he didn’t play, but he went to watch and support the juniors. He went around the different courts and talked to the kids playing and really lifted them.

“A lot of them played their best tennis ever. He is visible, supportive of lesser players and so very well-liked, respected and admired.”

  • Pakuranga Tennis Club has started a Givealittle page to get him to the big ITF tournaments.

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