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Lights, camera, DiGiulio

May 26, 2006|By Dominic Perrone

When the volume of the crowd rises and the lights from cameras blare, Joesph DiGiulio tunes it all out. He just focuses on the tennis tournament he's playing.

DiGiulio will use the same focus when he walks the halls of St. Catherine Catholic School in Laguna Beach today. The 10-year old tennis phenom will catch the eyes of all around him as he is followed by a film crew, which will be at his side through Sunday.

DiGiulio, a Newport Beach resident, is being filmed for a documentary, along with three other boys' players from around the country, to capture competitiveness in its youth, with the story culminating at the Super Nationals in Little Rock, Ark. where all four will compete.

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"We are looking at the junior tennis world," said Jeanne Talbot, director of the documentary. "The goal is to show the relationship with the parents' support. The system of turning a boy into an athlete. To make a film of boys at this sweet age. They hold their own on the court in a dignified manor."

DiGiulio said he is pretty calm about the film crew following him for four days, taking it all in stride. His friends and teachers all know the camera will be there today.

"They'll probably be staring," DiGiulio said. "I don't know if the students can be filmed because I don't think the teacher sent out the permission slips. I know they will film my teacher."

It's not every day these students have a film crew roaming their halls.

"[My friends] are saying that's cool and they're excited," DiGiulio said.

Before the trip to school, the crew ? which also includes cameraman and sound operator Andrew Prokobemko ? will visit DiGiulio's house and take a gander at his 80 tennis trophies. There is still one missing from the mantle, the golden ball given to the champion of a Super National.

"That would be big," DiGiulio said. "I have a bronze ball from finishing third in doubles at a Super National in December."

It was at that Arizona tournament that Thomas Pura approached DiGiulio's parents about filming a documentary including Pura's son, who is 12, two other 11-year old boys and DiGiulio.

"I thought it was a great idea," Paul DiGiulio, Joseph's father, said. "He had been following his results. He knew how young he was. He wanted him in the film. He said he'd never seen a kid so good so young."

As a bonus, Pura added in a fully paid trip to watch the U.S. Open for the boys and their families.

In December, when the documentary was first discussed, DiGiulio was ranked No. 9 in Southern California for 12-and-under. Now he is No. 4 in Southern California and No. 7 in the nation. The other three ? T.J. Pura of Bedford, N.Y., Mitchell Polnet of Churchville, Penn., and Mitchell Krueger of Aledo, Texas ? are ranked 22nd, 25th and 15th in the nation, respectively.

When the quartet meets at the Super Nationals in Arkansas, it will be the first time DiGiulio faces any of the three.

For now, DiGiulio is focused on the Quiksilver Junior Championships, which he begins on Saturday. The documentary crew will be in tow. Sit-down interviews will be spliced in between, where Talbot will ask him about his passion for tennis, his thoughts during a pressure-filled match and how he likes his parents watching him play.

And when he participates in the Wilson Clinic today at Woodbridge Tennis Club in Irvine, they will be right there filming.

"I'm pretty confident," DiGiulio said.

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