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  • Interview with Robert Lansdorp If you can value a coach by the achievements of his players than you can consider Mr. Robert Lansdorp as one of the most important and most influential tennis coaches from the beginning of Open era till today. He is unique because he coached four players from their earliest junior days up till their top rankings: Tracey Austin, Lindsey Davenport, Pete Sampras, and Maria Sharapova.  

Interview with Nikola Milojevic # 1 ITF junior player

It is not often in the world of tennis that two players from the same country, at the same time are the best on the ATP and the ITF juniors list.

In early 2013, Novak Djokovic and his 8 years younger compatriot Nikola Milojevic, found themselves in leadership positions in professional and junior tennis. By playing well the whole year of 2012, combined with victories at the end of the year in Mexico and at the beginning of the year 2013 in Costa Rica, a young Milojevic has managed to become the # 1 in Juniors and he has the privilege to be # 1 seed in the Australian Open for juniors.

Nikola Milojevic Australian Open Juniors

Traveling from Costa Rica to Melbourne, I spent time with Nikola and his team in Los Angeles, while waiting for his connecting flight to Australia. We spent some time talking about his tennis, and what it takes to become a successful junior player. I also tried to find how Nikola is getting ready for the transition into professional tennis.

"In fact, the lives of tennis professionals and a top junior have no big difference," says Nikola, " We, juniors, are fully committed to training, and we are playing big tournaments on every continent." Last year after Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Nikola was in Canada, New York, Japan and then he played in South America. Today he is on the way to Australia. "The only difference" said Nikola, "is that we do not get a pay check like our older colleagues.

"Very quickly, by his way of speaking and behaving, I can see that Nikola is one young guy who knows what he can achieve in the world of top tennis.

Nikola Milojevic French Open Juniors

N. M. - "If I am now in the position # 1 of junior tennis, and if all goes according to plan and if I stay healthy, I see myself among the best ATP players in a couple of years. I am aware that the transition between the junior and professional tennis is not easy and I'm ready in the beginning to lose more games than to win, but that's normal. I am patient by nature, it’s my game style anyway, and I know that my time will come."

S. M. - In search of better conditions, players often leave the home in the early teenage years, did you do the same?

N. M. - "I was seven year old when I started playing tennis in my neighborhood, in Belgrade, but later, after five or six years, and when I made my first international success, I went off to Paris to Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, which I think is one of the best in the world. A large number of great players (Serena Williams, Dimitrov, Chardy, Hanescu, Rezai, Gavrilova), have their base there. But in that time of my career long periods away from home wasn’t something I liked, so I decided that the place of my stay and preparation is going to be Belgrade (Serbia), where I have my family, mother Maja, and father Toma, whose proximity and attention means a lot to me. Here are my fans who know me from my childhood and whose support is to me is truly great. For example, last week when I became the No. 1 junior, one of my neighbors, wrote on my dad's, snow-covered car "Go, go king!". Again small things like that mean a lot to me."

Nikola Milojevic Wimbledon Juniors

S. M. - What is a typical practice day in your tennis life like when you are in Belgrade?

N. M. - "I have a routine - mostly 2 hours in the morning working on my technique or coach Alex Slovic feeds the balls, then I do fitness, and after lunch and afternoon rest mainly, I also play a few sets with different sparring partners. Belgrade has a large number of solid players and it’s not difficult to find sparring partners, which is very important to my training."

S. M. - … your Serbian coach Alex Slovic was the # 1 player at Washington State ..

N. M. - "Yes, he is a very good friend, coach and hitting partner. As a young man and former player he understands my needs very well. Before him, my coaches were also a former player from Serbia, Vuk Jovanovic, who now lives and works in Norway, and Dejan Petrovic, who was born in Australia. They helped me a lot in developing with their playing and coaching experience."

S. M. - ITF has a policy where older ATP players are mentors to the top ITF juniors. Do you have a mentor?

N. M. -  "I now have the privilege that my mentor is Janko Tipsarevic (he is top 10 ATP, and he was # 1 junior in the world 10 years ago) who helps me with his advice and shows how to get through the transition from juniors into professional tennis. This change is often accompanied by being uncomfortable with current disappointments. So I absorb every one of Janko’s words because I know that they are experienced and well-intentioned."

Nikola Milojevic Australian Open Juniors 2013

S. M. - What's next on your agenda?

N. M. -  "In consultation with coaches, parents and my management company from Germany, after the Australian Open, I will only concentrate on playing professional tournaments, Futures, and Challengers to start to collect points for the ATP list, and eventually make a good ranking. From junior tournaments I may only play a Grand Slam: French Open and Wimbledon. Anyway I'm ready for the transition, I know it will take a lot of work, and adaptations and changes in lifestyle and training in order to reach a higher level. I’ll have to adopt the professional way of diet and to improve my physical qualities like strength and speed. But I am determined to do whatever it takes -one day to be among the top ten in the world and I do not have doubt about it."

S. M. - All the best to you Nikola!

Nikola Milojevic and Novak Djokovic

Two weeks after our meeting and conversation in Los Angeles, Nicola’s junior winning streak was stopped in Quarterfinals of the Australian Open juniors. Besides a couple of good matches he played and ranking points he made, his most valuable experience was being able to hit with the best player in the world, four times Australian Open winner, Novak Djokovic with whom he had a hitting warm up before Novak's match against Berdich. On that occasion, Nikola made a joke and said, "I am satisfied that he won afterwards, I think maybe it was because of my great warm up."

This year couldn’t have started better for the young rising star, I have heard that another nice thing happened after Nikola came back home from Australia. National coach Bogdan Obradovic invited him to travel to Belgium and be a part of national Davis Cup team of Serbia in the first round match against Belgium.

Nikola Milojevic and Sveto Matovic

 

Written by Sveto Matovic,

January 2013