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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Tennis: What Makes a Tennis Champion

[Editor’s Note: Tennis Recruiting.Net is pleased to bring you an in-depth profile of a promising young player, Iva Jovic. Authored by longstanding tennis writer and historian Joel Drucker, this piece explores a wider range of topics than a great many profiles. Drucker spent many hours researching this piece, including time with the entire Jovic family, conversations with her coach, as well as interviews with a variety of experts and past junior players.]

If you’re a young tennis player with even the slightest amount of ambition, the dream is to compete at Wimbledon. This is the sport’s crown jewel, one of four major tennis tournaments also known as “Grand Slam” or “major” events.

Blue Chip Sophomore Iva Jovic
© Zoo Tennis

It’s a fall afternoon on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. I’ve arrived at a fabled tennis club, sitting across a table from 15-year-old Iva Jovic (WTN: 8.5), a Torrance resident who hopes to spend many years at Wimbledon. “I want to be the best I can be,” she tells me. “I want to be in the top 10. I want to be one in the world. I want all of those things.”

Jovic is the youngest of two daughters of Serbian immigrants, father Bojan and mother Jelena. Both are pharmacists, juggling 12-hour shifts while making time to support both Iva’s tennis journey and her older sister, Mia, a fine tennis player herself who entered UCLA last fall. Says Jelena, “When you have a kid, you do everything for your kid, they want it, they love it, it's healthy for them. Of course I'm going to give all my time and money that I have for it.”

California Tennis Dream Goes Back More than 100 Years

What draws Jovic to tennis? It’s the same attribute that has drawn Europeans to America, Americans to California, Californians to their own ambitions. “I like how individual it is,” she says. “I like how it's mostly up to you.” This is the desire that drives Jovic to make sure her parents are ready at 7:00 a.m. to drive her to a practice session. This is the strong work ethic that compels her to spend 45 minutes prior to a match stretching and moving so that she arrives on the court as primed as possible. “Iva would stay out there all day if she had to,” says her first professional instructor, John Carrizosa. “She had that killer smile.” Peter Smith, one of Jovic’s current coaches, likes to ask new students about their tennis goals. Says Smith, “She was very clear and straight with me. ‘I'm going to be a pro,’ and it was said in a very different way than other kids say. A lot of kids will say, ‘I want to be number one, or I want to be a pro.’ No, [with Iva] that was clear and it was very obvious to me that first day. I went home and told my wife, Tammy, if I cannot make her a pro, I should quit coaching.”

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Page updated on Monday, March 11, 2024
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