05 Jun 2013

Serbia’s finest taking care of Serbia’s juniors

News Article

By Sandra Harwitt

Photo: Susan MullaneNikola Milojevic (SRB)

Whether it’s the pros or the juniors, the Serbian tennis players tend to stick together and support each other whenever possible.

For second-seeded Nikola Milojevic there’s no doubt that a bond with 12th-ranked Janko Tipsarevic, who he refers to as his tennis mentor and shares the same manager, Dirk Hordorff, is a huge help. And top-ranked Novak Djokovic, a frequent practice partner, has also helped him mature as a competitor.

“Of course, I know Novak, we practiced together lot’s of time and at the Australian Open this year we practiced five or six times,” Milojevic said. “His physical coach (Gebhard Phil-Gritsch) watched my game today. And we (Djokovic and him) are in contact as much as we can be considering how big a star he is. I have a lot of support from him and Tipsarevic, who is my mentor, and they help me to improve my game and I’m really, really grateful to both of them.

“It’s incredible. You’ll just learn new things and you come to practice with them and you realize there’s so much more to improve. And just practicing with them improves you as a player. And it pumps up my confidence at well.”

Milojevic hasn’t played a practice set against either Tipsarevic or Djokovic yet, and on Wednesday joked he hasn’t  because “They’re scared.”

Milojevic used that experience to whisk past Lucas Gomez of Mexico 61 60 to move into his third Grand Slam junior boys’ quarterfinal. Milojevic was able to keep his errors to a minimum and relied on his forehand to make the match easy. The few times he was in a bit of trouble, his serve came through as a valuable weapon as well.

In all, Milojevic has only lost seven games in three matches played en route to the quarterfinals.

“A third round match, to win 6-1, 6-0 is a really good score,” Milojevic said. “There are really good players here and you can play really tough matches even in the first round. So to win the third round and only let your opponent win one game is really good. And it’s really good preparation to go really, really far in this tournament.”

The 17-year-old Milojevic was a quarterfinalist at 2012 Wimbledon and the 2013 Australian Open, but at both of those tournaments he wasn’t in the best place in terms of health.

“Both times I had physical problems,” Milojevic said. “Last year at Wimbledon I retired with abdominal strain and I couldn’t serve for the entire tournament. It was a surprise for me that I came that far. And at the Australian Open I had a high temperature, even the round before but managed to win. I was still sick in the quarterfinals and didn’t have energy.

“But now I’m healthy, 100 percent, so I think it’s will be a little bit different. Now I’m really ready for the quarterfinal.”

Milojevic will play sixth-seeded Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy in the quarterfinals. Quinzi has been struggling to post his wins here, but came through another tough battle in the third round 63 36 62 over qualifier Albert Alcaraz Ivorra of Spain.

Another junior boy who benefits from some passed down wisdom from a pro player is fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany.

The 16-year-old Zverev’s brother, Mischa Zverev, ranked as high as No. 45 in the world  in 2009 on the pro tour. A broken wrist and two broken ribs has sidelined the older brother, but he’s currently ranked No. 142 and is on the comeback trail.

Despite the nearly 10 years age difference between the two they are very close.

“He’s helping me a lot, especially because when I was much younger we were always practicing together even though I was worse than him,” Alexander Zverev said. “He’s been through it and can help me a lot. We talk to each other every day by phone.”

Playing in his first Roland Garros junior event, Zverev secured a 62 64 third round win over Young Seok Kim of Korea. Zverev had a fairly easy time in the first set, but was tested more closely in the second set by Kim. At 5-4 in the second set, Zverev missed out on winning the match on his first match point at 40-0 when Kim came up with a huge inside out forehand winner. At 40-15, Zverev’s second match point closed the deal when  he hit a forehand crosscourt winner.

“It was a tough match today,” Zverev said. “It was a tough match but I played solid today. I felt comfortable. Every single match, every single set I play I get more used to the court and more used to the balls.”

Zverev will play fifth-seeded Kyle Edmund of Great Britain in the quarterfinals. Edmund dispensed of unseeded Noah Rubin of USA 75 57 63.

France still has a boy in contention for the junior title. Calvin Hemery defeated fellow Frenchman Enzo Couacaud 60 64 on Wednesday.

In other boys’ matches around the grounds: eighth-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia won a 57 60 86 third round match over 11th-seeded Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France; Christian Garin of Chile upset third-seeded Laslo Djere of Serbia 36 63 62; 13th-seeded Guillermo Nunez of Chile defeated Karen Khachanov of Russia 75 46 64.

In other girls’ matches around the grounds: top-seeded Ana Konjuh of Croatia defeated Petra Uberalova of Slovakia 75 46 64; fifth-seeded Antonia Lottner of Germany defeated Ayaka Okuno of Japan 67 64 61; Elizaveta Kuulichkova of Russia upset 14th-seeded Carol Zhao of Canada 63 26 97; Kristina Schmiedlova of Slovakia defeated Ilka Csoregi of Romania 76 36 64; sixth-seeded Darya Kasatkina of Russia defeated Margot Yerolymos of France 63 63.