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Monday, November 17, 2008

Playing tennis, the Serbian way

It’s fascinating to see how success stories of few players can change the face of a sport in any country. That’s what Novak Djokovic, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic have done for tennis in Serbia.

The three have breathed life in a dying sport in a country where football and basketball have a passionate following.

According to David Savic, a 23-year-old tennis player who is in the city for the ITF Futures Series, Djokovic, Jankovic and Ivanovic have not only done Serbia proud but they have given the sport a new life. “When I started playing, there were no players from Serbia who excelled in tennis. Now it has changed,” says Savic, who like the majority of country’s tennis players, is based in Belgrade.

Savic feels these players have given the younger generation role models, someone they can look up to in the sport.

This is extremely important for Serbia. With the country caught in war in the late 90’s, there were several restrictions imposed on the players because of which they couldn’t participate in tournaments outside Serbia.

“There was no motivation for us to carry on with the sport. In fact, many of them even stopped playing tennis,” Savic said. With no proper infrastructure in place, the Serbs famously converted an empty swimming pool into a tennis court. “We had no hard courts to practice on. The pool was divided in three courts and we practiced there. But there was very little room for us to play shots,” Savic said.

These days though, most of the new generation players train in the USA, with better facilities.

However, Savic is not so lucky. He is on his third visit to India and first in Mumbai. Having turned professional five years ago, the 23-year-old has been a consistent performer on the Challenger and the Futures circuit.

However, lack of finances has denied him the opportunities to earn valuable rating points.

“I mostly travel around Europe as it is light on my pocket. Young players now easily get sponsorship and are able to train abroad, where the facilities are of high standard. But no one is really keen to sponsor a guy who is 23 or 24, and they are also right on their part,” said the Serb.

So does he feel unlucky of not getting the opportunity to train with better facilities? “I just feel unlucky that I was born before Novak (Djokovic). Else the story would have been different,” he remarked.

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1 Comments:

At November 26, 2008 at 11:16 PM , Blogger Adam said...

Up until a year ago there were problems particularly off court. Newspapers speculated on whether he would seek foreign citizenship and one of his relatives fanned those flames. The problems seemed to centre on sporting infrastructure in Serbia,
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Adam

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