How the hell do they do it? The country is inhabited by only 7 million people, with a tennis federation that was, up until a couple of years ago, smaller than Aravane Rezai’s tennis brain. Yet they keep on churning out these insanely talented tennis players. From the former world #1s Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, to those astonishingly talented ATP world champions. It’s craziness. The Serbian player in question, however, has yet to experience the highs of his well-celebrated compatriots. But he is well on his way to doing so.
This story has become such a cliché in tennis over the years; young player from some obscure country in Europe notches up a few good results in juniors, that player then travels to the USA to participate in the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl events, then without fail Nick Bollettieri pops out of thin-air with a contract in hand, and suddenly that young prodigy is signing up to the academy and settling into their new home in Bradenton, Florida. That’s what happened with Monica Seles, it would then later happen with Jelena Jankovic, and between 2006 and 2007, the next Serbian to sell his soul to Nick Bollettieri would be a fifteen year-old by the name of Filip Krajinovic.
Since joining the Bollettieri academy in 2007, Krajinovic has never even considered looking back. Under Bollettieri’s wing, the eighteen year old would patch together an outstanding junior career, reaching the semi-finals of Wimbledon and the US Open 2008 and peaking at #6 in the world. His assault on the senior tour began in 2008, where he qualified for a US Futures event before losing to fellow prospect (and brat!) Ricardas Berankis, in the first round. The next few years would see a gradual and steady rise up the rankings from Krajinovic as he systematically cracked each level; first the Futures events, then the Challengers, and then his ATP breakthrough early this year with a semi-final finish on home soil in Belgrade. The months that followed Belgrade were quite a let-down. But he has arrived, and that’s all that matters.
It’s interesting to think about all Filip has had to deal with in the last few years. At the beginning of his career, no one really cared about tennis in Serbia. There was football, water polo and so on. Tennis? Puh-leeze. But since then, tennis has quickly transformed into one of the most prominent sports in the country. From zero expectations, there is suddenly a load of pressure on Filip’s shoulders, as the nation looks for a player to stand proudly aside their most eligible bachelor, Novak Djokovic, at the very top of the rankings. It must’ve been a tough adjustment for him.
Pressure or no pressure, Filip Krajinovic has a promising career ahead of him. Armed with a spectacular set of groundstrokes, he will look to further establish himself on the ATP tour in 2011. Throughout his career he has often been the forgotten talent of 1992, usually hidden behind the ridiculous antics of Bernard Tomic and the US media hype surrounding Ryan Harisson. However, 2011 will be the year that he breaks through and makes his voice heard around the globe, so take note and listen carefully, people.