Croatia and Serbia not only share a common border of 241 km geographically but also an extremely talented pool of tennis players. Earlier they were a part of the bigger nation of Yugoslavia and now they have a rivalry of sorts in the field of tennis. With tennis being a more common sport among the Americans, English, Aussies and the French, smaller nations like Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic have taken to the sport with great vigour not to mention the surge of Croatia and Serbia in the world of tennis.
From the great Monica Seles who dominated the ladies’ game in 1992-93 to the latest revelation in Novak Djokovic, it is needless to say that the Serbs are a force to reckon with. Seles was listed as the 13th greatest player of all time by Tennis Magazine and survived one of the most brutal on-court attacks in 1993. Another well known Serbian player is Ana Ivanovic who was the winner of the 2008 French Open and also a runner-up at the 2007 Australian and French Open. She started her career after being inspired by Monica Seles and presently has 10 WTA singles titles. Jelena Jankovic is yet another consistent performer, well-known for her defeat of the then defending champion, Venus Williams in Wimbledon 2006. The Croatian female tennis players are still finding their holding with a few surprise performers in Karolina Sprem and Jelena Kostanic.
Goran Ivanisevic is best known for his win at Wimbledon as a wild-card which has never been emulated thus far. He was one of the greatest Croatian sportsmen who helped his nation be spotted in the sporting arena. He enabled Yugoslavia win the World Team Cup in 1990 followed by scripting Croatia’s win in the 1996 Hopman Cup and 2005 Davis Cup. After him, a number of his countrymen took to tennis like Ivo Karlovic who along with Roger Federer was the only one to win on 3 different surfaces in the 2007 season. Mario Ancic made a mark when he defeated Roger Federer as a debutant in the 2002 Wimbledon Championships and went on to win bronze medal in doubles along with Ivan Ljubicic for Croatia in the Athens Olympics 2004. The duo is known for their famous defeat of the Bryan brothers in the Davis cup and Ljubicic has a career high ATP ranking of No.3 till date. Marin Cilic was identified by Ivanisevic and sent to his former coach Bob Brett and reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open last year.
Novak Djokovic has been called the best ever player to have come out of Serbia and is the youngest player in the Open era to have been in the semi-finals of all 4 grand slams, separately and consecutively. This year has been the high point of his career with wins at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. He is one among the 2 players who have defeated Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in consecutive Grand Slam matches. With a number of such records to his credit, he is indeed a force to reckon with in the Men’s circuit in years to come. Drawing inspiration from him, his fellow country mate Janko Tipsarevic won the Malaysian Open beating Marcos Baghdatis on October 3rd and won the Kremlin Cup on Sunday and is ranked No.13 in the latest ATP rankings. Nenad Zimonjic is another reputed Serb who is currently ranked No.3 in the doubles arena.
The Croatians being famous for their killer serve and the Serbians who are generally known for their disunity and discord, put their differences aside when it comes to tennis and are indeed becoming “Superpowers” in tennis slowly but surely with their talent and sheer hard work.