I come from sport family.Both parents competed in sports (swimming, table tennis).As a young boy, I started to train swimming in a swimming club.One time I did not swim required time, and they let me go.This was the end of my swimming career, and the beginning of my tennis career.I started to play tennis rather late (12 year old).First year I was in the tennis school , but after that I was on my own.At the time, there were not good tennis teachers because tennis knowledge was very limited.Good things in such adverse situation were that the club I was in had the best male tennis players in former Yugoslavia (the best among them Boro Jovanovic , Wimbledon double finalist), and very good recreational players.So on one hand I watched these good tennis players, and tried to imitate them, and on the other I had at my disposal a lot of recreational players who were willing to play against me.Later on. I got hold of one of tennis classic book”Tennis” by Predrag Brixy which I read numerous times, and each time I learned something new.I was very persistent as a tennis player.I will give just two examples which will illustrate what I am talking about:
- once I read that Andy Roodick as a young boy watching some good tennis players (I cannot remember anymore who) on TV was so motivated that he played against wall for 3 hours.This was like sensation.For me playing against wall for 3 hours was quite normal, and I played many times 5 hours in one day.
- at the time in my hometown of Zagreb there was just one indoor tennis court so during the winter we would have to practice in groups, and not every day.So, I would go to my school yard, clean snow, and hit against the building wall.
My persistence paid off.I had some very good results:
Elementary school champion of Zagreb
Champion of Zagerb under 16
Champion of Zagreb under 18
High school champion of Zagreb
Third in Croatia under 18
Third in former Yugoslavia under 18
Second in former Yugoslavia under 20 (played Valerio and Galea cup for former Yugoslavia)
Finals of men¨s championship of Croatia
Semi -finals of men¨s championship of former Yugoslavia
Number one player for Weber State University
Big sky conference double champion
Bezirck Meister in Germany
Played Grand Prix tournaments
Normally, learning tennis without coach had some very serious setbacks even at that time.I learned wromg grip for forehand, and I did not learn volleys, overhead smash, and my first serve was rather weak, and second one not very dependable.In such a tennis shape I got tennis scholarship at Brigham Young University.It was very frustrating because I used to play on clay, and at BYU were extremely fast indoor tennis courts.Players on the team could not rally against me, but I could not play against them.Everyday, I would come to practice with female team for two hours, then male team for two hours, and then I would stay alone to play against the wall.So every afternoon I would practice for six hours, and three times a week I had conditioning training for two hours.At BYU there was a coach, but his the most important role was good selection of tennis players who would through fight for positions on the team get better.That was not good for me because I needed someone to help me with overhead smash, volley and serve.There was no one so I had to do it myself.After one year, BYU coach kicked me out, and I was lucky that at the time the best player in Utah on one tournament tried to prove that he can beat me from the baseline.He lost, and WSU coach recruited me.WSU did not have facilities as good as BYU , but I worked hard and in my first eligible year to play I was number 3, and next year number one on WSU tennis team.I made such a progress that in match against BYU I bit number one player from BYU.It was very sweet win for me.
To conclude my player¨s years, I would say that I was fairly talented, extremely persistent, but because of lack of coaching I had no chance whatsoever in professional tennis.I did not realize it back then.
On the other hand not having coach made me think about tennis technique and tactics more than ordinary what helped me in my coaching career.