Photo: Srdjan StevanovicNikola Ciric
Nikola Ciric, a left-handed player from Serbia is our next featured player. This 25-year old, who represented his country against Portugal in Davis Cup back in July 2004, winning the doubles rubber to clinch his nation’s victory, favours clay courts. Nikola started the month looking to put an end to nearly two years without a title.
On the river Danube, the Serbian city of Novi Sad (meaning “New Plantation” in Serbian) held a Futures tournament on the ITF Men’s Circuit for the fourth consecutive year. This was Nikola’s first tournament of the month. Unseeded, Nikola opened with a match against the fifth seed Petar Popovic from France. A 62 63 win took Nikola into the second round where he faced Croatian qualifier Antonio Sancic. Another straight sets win, this time 63 64, set up a quarterfinal meeting with fellow Serbian Robert Belak. Nikola wasted little time in seeing off this challenge, dropping just three games, to reach the semi final. A 63 63 win over Ilija Martinoski brought Nikola face-to-face with the number one seed Attila Balazs in the final, a player whom he has lost to in straight sets on each of the three occasions they have previously met. With the odds stacked against him, Nikola fought hard in the opening set, eventually taking it 76(4). Nikola, now needing to win just one more set to claim the title, raised his game and dominated his opponent winning the second set to love, thus ending his long wait for a sixth career singles title. In the doubles event, he reached the second round with partner Miljan Zekic.
A trip to the north of Serbia was next for a Futures event in the city of Sombor. In 2004, when Sombor held it’s first Futures tournament, Nikola finished as runner-up and was looking to go one better this time round, and having won the singles title the previous week, was full of confidence. Nikola, again unseeded, started against Robert Belak, the second time the two players had faced each other this month, and again triumphed, this time 63 64. Qualifier Marko Pazman was then also despatched in straight sets, 63 62. Croatia’s Ante Nakic-Alfirevic faced Nikola next and like the players before him was soon defeated without loss of a set. Growing more in confidence with each match win, Nikola booked his place in a second successive singles final with a crushing 62 62 victory over another qualifier and fellow Serbian Dusan Lajovic. Hungary’s Adam Kellner, who was the fifth seed, was unable to halt Nikola’s charge to the title, losing in a close match 75 63. After two years without a title, Nikola had now won two titles in as many weeks! Miljan Zekic once again partnered Nikola in the doubles event and together they went one better than in Novi Sad, narrowly losing in the semi final in three very close sets.
Nikola’s 20-set winning streak this month was ended in the opening match of his next tournament. Held in the city of Subotica also in north Serbia and 10km from the border with Hungary, Nikola was defeated in the opening round 76(6) 61 by the Serbian fourth seed Aleksander Slovic. Nikola did not take part in the doubles event on this occasion.
Staying in Serbia for his last tournament this month, Nikola headed to Cacak, a city located 140km south of the capital Belgrade. For the first time this month, Nikola found himself named among the seeds in a singles event. As sixth seed, he soon banished memories of his first round exit in Subotica with a morale boosting 63 61 victory over Ivan Vukovic. In the second round, his Macedonian opponent, Shendrit Deari, was forced to call a halt to the match and retire whilst trailing 40 in the opening set. The extra rest received from only having to play four games in the previous round came in handy for Nikola as he was forced to play three close sets against Aldin Setkic, the fourth seed. Coming from a set down, Nikola finally won this quarterfinal match 46 63 64. The semi final saw him take on the fifth seed and his first opponent of the month back in Novi Sad, Petar Popovic. Just as in their previous match, it was Nikola who came out on top, winning, once again, in straight sets to reach a third final in four tournaments.
Goran Tosic, the second seed from Montenegro provided the opposition in the final. This was the sixth career meeting between these two players with Nikola leading 4-1 and their first since 2006. Despite losing the opening set, Nikola fought back to record a fifth straight victory over his opponent by taking the next two sets and win the match 46 63 64 and earn his third singles title of the month. A return to doubles brought about a semi final finish with partner Miljan Zekic.
A successful month spent in his homeland saw Nikola win twenty-nine sets and lose just four sets in singles and claim three titles from three finals. These titles, his first since September 2006, increased his career record to eight titles from eleven finals. Nikola still has some way to go before surpassing his career high singles ranking of 425 but if he can maintain the form he has shown throughout August this target is surely well within his reach.