The United States Tennis Association's Florida Player of the Year Award typically goes to an extraordinary athlete, and this year's winner, Sarasota's Leonardo Dal Boni, is certainly not ordinary.
Take his penchant for quoting Roman emperors.
"Marcus Aurelius, he says the things that happen to you are supposed to happen," Dal Boni said. "You have to see the positive side of things."
Dal Boni dropped the advice from the emperor, a follower of stoicism, while speaking about the rehab he did when a string of minor injuries caused him to miss some court time.
The rehab itself was not particular hard, Dal Boni said, but keeping his mind sharp was the bigger concern. So he followed advice from Aurelius and other historical leaders — Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" is a particular favorite — until he was ready to return. When he did, he dominated, as he had done before.
"It's not just about reading them," Dal Boni said. "It's about being mindful of them. I always try to apply what I read the next day or next match."
Dal Boni was given his Player of the Year award Dec. 16 at Payne Park Tennis Center while surrounded by friends and family.
Over the last 12 months, Dal Boni has won 90 of his 120 singles matches and 20 of his 30 doubles matches. His singles success included taking the title at the 2022 USTA Florida "Bobby Curtis" Championships in Orlando, regarded by many to be the biggest annual junior tennis event in Florida.
Dal Boni's success has him ranked by the Tennis Recruiting Network as a five-star player and the No. 52 player in the national Class of 2023.
Though much of Dal Boni's success has happened in Florida, his story does not begin in the Sunshine State. Dal Boni was born in Milan, Italy, and lived there with his family until he was 9, when the Dal Bonis moved to the United States.
"I knew the language, but I had a big accent," Dal Boni said. "So that was interesting."
Now 17, Dal Boni said he considers the U.S. his home. It is where he feels most comfortable, he said, and provides the most opportunity to follow his tennis dreams. Earlier this year, he and his parents, Alexa Scanziani and Fabio Dal Boni, became American citizens and received their passports. Leonardo Dal Boni said he is proud to represent the American flag.
Dal Boni takes online classes through Dwight Global Online School. Dal Boni said the school's classes don't start until 6 p.m. each evening, which gives him the daytime to train on the court and in the gym. It is during these sessions that Dal Boni has fine-tuned his craft; Dal Boni said he feels like there are no "weak" areas of his game any more, and that being well-rounded is what has given him success.
That, and being left-handed.
"It lets me use an out-wide serve," Dal Boni said. "Then, every time they (opponents) go to my forehand, they think it's a backhand, but no. I'm a lefty. It's a big key for me."
The USTA Award Dal Boni received has previously gone to players such as Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish, players who not just turned professional but found success. The award was given to Dal Boni by Dana Andrews, a past president of USTA Florida, who said the USTA selected Dal Boni not only for his sparkling play, but also for the sportsmanship he displays.
"It's about how well you did as a person, and your character," Andrews said to Dal Boni.
Dal Boni is uncommitted to any college, but said he would like to go to a "Power Five" conference school before taking a shot at the professional ranks.
No matter where he lands or what happens after that, Dal Boni will see the positive side of the result.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.