The recent stretch of unusual wintry weather combined with the spectacle that is the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, have ACU student Nada Marjanovic feeling very Canadian.
The sophomore from Mississauga, Ontario, hails from a country better known for its proficiency in sports played on ice and snow, but Canada’s frigid winters haven’t stopped her from chasing her dreams on the tennis court.
Marjanovic’s father competed with the Croatian national soccer team, while her uncle excelled as a prominent tennis coach. The natural sibling rivalry between her father and uncle led to Marjanovic’s father taking up tennis lessons in his spare time, intent on challenging his brother on the courts. He developed a passion for the sport and enrolled Nada Marjanovic in lessons at the age of three.
Six years later Marjanovic won her first Ontario provincial tennis tournament in the under-10 division. It was just the beginning.
As she continued within the Ontario Tennis Association, her results remained consistent. A second provincial championship alongside two runner-up finishes determined her place as one of Ontario’s top, young tennis stars. Another second-place finish, this time at the Canadian national under-14 tournament, resulted in a No. 2 ranking in Canada for her age.
Her success even extended to the international stage, including a runner-up finish at an under-18 international tournament in the province of Alberta, Canada and a doubles championship in Manitoba, Canada. In 2008, Marjanovic was named to the Canadian junior team, allowing her to travel across North America and Europe to some of the world’s top tennis academies.
The road to success wasn’t always as smooth as a Rafael Nadal forehand winner, though. Financial help is very difficult to come by because most sponsors would rather invest in a team sport such as hockey or football.
“People do not know how expensive tennis really is,” Marjanovic said.
Good quality equipment, higher quality coaching and travel costs are not cheap, especially when one has to provide for themselves. Once selected to the Canadian team in ’08, Marjanovic could finally have access to Canada’s national tennis training center.
Tennis is not a prominent sport in Canada, although recent successes on the international stage for Canadian stars Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard have finally put the sport on the map.
“I think the recent rise of Canadian tennis players is really great for Canada to become more involved,” Marjanovic said. “We have the resources but they weren’t being used in the most effective way to create more professional players like they could have.”
Raonic and Bouchard recently swept the 2013 Canadian Press male and female athlete of the year awards respectively, leading many to appreciate the rise of the Canadian tennis program.
Despite the lowly position of Canadian tennis during Marjanovic’s early career, she rose above the negative issues and garnered attention south of the border. After originally committing to the University of Texas at Arlington, only to have an unfortunate transcript error make her ineligible for D-1, Marjanovic “by chance and faith” learned of ACU and contacted tennis coach Hutton Jones.
She said she hasn’t regretted that decision since, feeling that she has a second family in the tennis team.
“[The coaches] treat us like their own kids and respect us and are always there for us,” Marjanovic said. “I love how the guys and girls are very connected and practice and travel together unlike most schools.”
Now in her second season with ACU, Marjanovic has started the 2014 campaign with an impressive 6-1 record in singles matches.
“I have really been focusing on believing in myself and working hard on and off court,” Marjanovic said.
In a sport where mental discipline is as important as physical skill, Marjanovic may have an advantage thanks to her early years in the sport in Canada.
An attempt at the women’s professional circuit has certainly crossed Marjanovic’s mind.
“I would like to try the professional circuit maybe in the summer before my senior year and the summer after, comparing myself at the international level now outside of juniors,” Marjanovic said.
In the meantime, Marjanovic is focused on doing her part to continue the recent rise of Canadian tennis, both in the NCAA and around the world.