Photo: Srdjan StevanovicIlija Bozoljac (SRB)
Our opening ‘Spotlight On…’ feature takes a look at Serbian Davis Cup player Ilija Bozoljac who, just over two years ago at Wimbledon 2010, took the defending champion, Roger Federer, to four close sets in their second round encounter and eight years ago this very week (w/c 4 Feb), took a set off Novak Djokovic in a Belgrade Challenger.
The opening month of the year saw Bozoljac taking part in the first three Turkish tournaments of 2013, all held onsite at the GD Tennis Academy in Antalya-Kaya-Belek.
These tournaments marked the 27-year olds return to ITF Pro Circuit action for the first time since a defeat in a German Futures final in 2005, although he did make a brief appearance in January 2008.
Bozoljac was unseeded in all three of these hard court tournaments and in the first he opened against Russian player Aslan Karatsev who was also unseeded. Bozoljac took his place in the second round with a 61 deciding set win after the two players had shared the opening two sets.
The set dropped in that opening round match would be the only set he would drop during the week as he went on to see off the challenges of four seeded players in successive rounds to take the title. This run included defeats of three of the top four seeds and most impressively he accounted for the top seed in the semifinal, dropping just three games in 61 62 win.
The 2012 Davis Cup quarterfinalist claimed his first ITF Pro Circuit singles title since winning in his home nation in 2005 with a close 76(4) 64 win against Spanish fourth seed Guillermo Olaso.
During the period between these two title triumphs, Bozoljac had not been a stranger to final appearances as he had competed in eleven Challenger finals, winning three titles.
In the second of the three Turkish tournaments, Bozoljac began by posting wins of 64 61 in the opening two rounds. These victories set up a quarterfinal against the number two seed Damir Dzumhur, a player we featured in May 2012.
The battle for a semifinal place went to three sets but it was Bozoljac who emerged the victor and he pushed on from here to claim a second title in as many weeks.
Following these two title triumphs, the month was to end on a sour note. Hopeful of making it a hat-trick of titles this month, Bozoljac’s tournament was cut short in the opening round. Playing Korean qualifier Jung-Woong Na, Bozoljac, suffering with stomach problems and feeling of weakness, was forced to retire with only three games of the first set having been played.
Despite this unfortunate ending to January, Bozoljac can look back on a successful month. He won back-to-back singles titles for the first time in eight years and ended a wait of just over four years for a singles title stretching back to his triumph at a Challenger in Banja Luka.
In 2007 Bozoljac reached a career high ATP singles ranking of 101 and these title wins this month are a step in the right direction towards climbing the rankings and breaking into the Top100.