United States

The former tennis champion and the American dream: "This is how I help Sardinian athletes"

Daniele Piludu and his New York company that facilitates placement in US colleges

"The first racket I still remember: it was a black Wilson with a red handle, even the one among the others remained in Cagliari".

He was the Sardinian promise of international tennis, not for nothing at the age of 14 among the top three European under 14 players, at eighteen among the first under 18, summoned to the national team, then at 19 he preferred books to the racket and flew to New York scholarship. Regrets? "Nobody". He says it convinced and amused, with a slightly Americanized Italian but always marked by that unmistakably Sardinian cadence. Daniele Piludu, 30, has been living in the Big Apple since 2010, where he founded and directs Isap (International student athletes program), a company that helps young European athletes to enter the great American universities. "Exactly what I did when I came here."

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One on one with Nadal

«The first time I was offered to study in America I was in Germany, at the Halle tournament - he says -. This guy wanted me to play on his university's tennis team in Chicago. I looked at it and almost laughed. I wanted to play tennis, not to study ». And until he was 18, that's what he did: play. Protagonist in the fields of the most important international youth tournaments, the Avvenire, the Bonfiglio and then in 2008 the Australian Open where he played with the then number one Rafael Nadal. “He was looking for someone to train with and I offered myself. We were in Melbourne with 38 degrees, crazy heat. We start training and for the first 45 minutes he never stopped to take a sip of water. I was about to die unconscious on the ground, but in order not to make a bad impression I continued. They laughed when they realized how thirsty I was ». To everyone it seemed a future with the racket already written, but at 18 Daniele begins to be no longer so sure.

The American dream

“When you play tennis at that level there is only the ball and the racket. I traveled ten months a year, I had fun it's true, but it was also tiring - he explains -. I got to a point where I realized that in my future I didn't want only sport and despite the conflicting opinions of the people around me, I took the ball. I took advantage of the contacts that my tennis career had given me and I graduated in New York, a priceless experience ». Even if the impact with the city was not easy at all. «A straight ride in the face, but still beautiful and that's why I decided to open Isap. America offers something that does not exist in Italy ». Study and sport? The dream is possible overseas and Daniele is a witness. “I continued playing tennis and graduated. Plus they paid me to do it. "

New York-Cagliari axis

«What I have done can be done by many athletes who have what it takes to get a scholarship. I help them and their families with language and bureaucracy. I accompany them before, during and after their experience in the States », explains Daniele who still has a dream in the drawer. The racket has now hung on the wall of his office in New York but now with Isap he would like to start collaborations with the sports realities of the island and maybe bring some young Sardinian to retrace his path. "I'm sure that my city is full of deserving young sportsmen too."

Michela Marrocu


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