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(E) Jeffrey Lesser Friend of Croatia
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  01/24/2005 | Friends | Unrated
(E) Jeffrey Lesser Friend of Croatia



Mario Ancic and Jeffrey Lesser



By Katarina Tepesh

JEFFREY LESSER lives in West Orange, New Jersey, where he is a 16-year-old high school junior. A "straight A" student, Jeffrey is the editorials editor of his school newspaper, the Pioneer, and frequently contributes editorials, mainly about politics. Jeff is the captain of the boys' tennis team at West Orange High School. He hopes to attend Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he wants to major in sports medicine and become a licensed physician. His mother said that Jeff is such a big fan of Croatian tennis, he might as well just move to Croatia altogether.

Katarina - Out of hundreds of tennis players from all over the world, we Croatians are delighted that you have an intense interest for Croatian players! How and when did it happen?
I first started following professional tennis when I was about 7 years old. At the time, my two favorite tennis players were Michael Chang and Croatian Goran Ivanisevic. I really admired and enjoyed the way Ivanisevic played, with his huge lefty serve and solid strokes from the baseline. I am not really sure how my love for Ivanisevic matriculated into an intense fandom of Croatian tennis, but I know that I began to follow Ivan Ljubicic, who was Ivanisevic's compatriot and occasional doubles partner. When Mario Ancic and Ivo Karlovic went pro, I began to root for them as well, because I already was a big fan of Croatian tennis from Ivanisevic and Ljubicic.

Who/What do you aspire to be?
When I grow up, I want to become an orthopaedic surgeon or a doctor for a sports team. Because I don't see any method by which I can become a professional tennis player or a professional athlete, I would really love to tie in medicine with my first love, sports.

What extracurricular activities do you do in school?
In school, I am on the mock trial team, for which I am a lawyer (there are only four lawyers in the whole school), and I am in Junior Statesmen of America, or JSA, which is a debate club. I am also the editorials editor of my high school paper, the Pioneer, for which I write articles, edit, and choose which articles are printed in the paper.

What sports do you play?
I love playing tennis, and I am the captain of my high school tennis team. As a Junior in high school, this will be my third year starting on the varsity team, making me the longest tenured player currently on the team.

What other hobbies to do you have?
I love watching sports and going to sporting events. I have been to several New York Knicks basketball games already this year, went to two San Francisco 49ers football games, one in New Orleans and one in New Jersey, and go to Yankee games often. I love professional sports, and my favorite team is the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL. I also love following professional tennis, and attended the US Open seven times last year, following several of my favorite players and going to most of their matches.

What type of music do you like?
I love classic rock, like Jethro Tull (my all-time favorite band), Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band and Paul Simon. I go to as many classic rock concerts as possible.

Do you do volunteer work or tutoring?
I volunteer three hours per week working at the Gift Shop at the Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation in West Orange, New Jersey. I have been working there since September of 2003. I am also part of the SALE program in my school, which involves going to a middle school and immersing kids in the French language and teaching them the basics of French so that they will be interested in studying French in the future.

What type of student are you? Have you won any academic awards?
I am a very diligent and hard-working student. I have received straight A's in every marking period of my first three years so far in high school, except for the fourth marking period of my Freshman year, when I received a B in Biology in one marking period (though I did obtain an A for the year, and in my school, that is all that matters). That means that I have been on the high honor roll 8 times so far in high school and regular honor roll once. I am in line to obtain a National Merits Scholarship for my score on the PSATs as well, but I do not find out about this until September 2005.

Do you like to travel?
I love to travel. I have been to Italy, Israel, France, England, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Hawaii, and out west to California for a summer playing tennis. I went on a teen tour out to the Pacific Northwest of America and Canada, as well.

What is your typical day like? What do you do when you are not in school?
My typical day involves going to school and doing school-related activities. Every Monday after school, I volunteer at the Kessler Institute, and on Tuesdays, I attend Hebrew High School for two hours. On Wednesdays and Thursdays I have mock trial after school and JSA, and on Fridays I like to hang out with my friends. Saturdays, I typically eat lunch with my family and do some homework. At night, I go out with my friends. Sundays in the winter are reserved for watching football with my father.

Do you really do your homework every day and clean your own room?
I actually think I do a pretty good job of completing my homework every day and preparing for the next day in school. Cleaning my room is a different story, however, as my mom can attest.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?
I have one brother, Eric, who is nineteen and in college, attending the University of Pennsylvania. We see each other a lot and are very close.
Besides your parents, who are your idols?
Besides my parents, my idol would be my brother. He has affected everything I have done in my life. I have learned from his mistakes and his successes in life. He turned me on to sports and everything I love in life. However, I try to be my own person, as well. I do not like to base my life off of somebody else's. I try to be a unique individual.

You seem to have a very mature view on politics. Is it influenced by your parents? What do your parents do for a living?
My view on politics is inevitably affected to a degree by the influence of my parents and my brother. However, most of my opinions are made independently of them and their influence. My mother works as a salesperson of software to major corporations in the United States and my father is an attorney.

Would you say you are a typical Democrat who wants to change and improve the world? Are you old enough to vote?
I most definitely would love to improve the world, because everyone knows (except Bush, maybe) that there is much room for improvement. I believe that we should put those in need first and not give tax cuts to the rich, but rather to the lower and middle class who truly need the money. I am not old enough to vote, but rest assured, when I am (next Presidential election), I will vote for the candidate who will positively affect America and the world.

What was it like meeting Ancic at US Open 2004?
I was walking around the grounds of the US Open, and I remembered that Sanja Ancic, Mario's sister, was playing in the juniors of the event. So, I went to watch her for a little while; there were about 20 people watching. I don't think any of them knew that she was Mario's sister, because sitting on a bench, with no one recognizing him or approaching him, was Mario Ancic himself! I went and sat right behind him, my mom next to me, and Mario's father I believe was sitting behind me in the bleachers. Mario was reading a Croatian newspaper. I waited until the end of the first set, which Sanja lost in a tiebreaker, to talk to Mario, so as to not rudely disturb him while he was watching his sister. At the end of the first set, I stood up and said, "Mario, I am a huge fan of yours." He said, "Thank you." I asked him if I could take a photograph with him, and he stood up and said, "Sure." He was kind of down because he had lost a few days prior (to Belge Olivier Rochus, I was there) and his sister had dropped the first set. My mom took two photos of the same shot, I said "Thank you," again, and I sat back down to watch a little more of the match before I left. It was amazing, I got to get a picture with one of my absolute favorite tennis players, Wimbledon semifinalist, and rising star, Mario Ancic!



For the twentieth time in his career, Ivan Ljubicic was ousted before the third round of a Grand Slam. The 22nd ranked player in the world, Ljubicic has only made it past the second round of a Grand Slam twice in his whole career, and has never made it past the third round in these two instances. With his four-set, 6-7 4-6 7-6 2-6 loss to 19-year-old Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus in the second round of the Australian Open Wednesday, Ljubicic continued his frustrating pattern of Grand Slam disappointments.
Considering his great success in other tournaments, Ljubicic's lack of success in the Grand Slams is mind-boggling. This summer, in the tournament in Indianapolis, Indiana, Ljubicic made a great run, defeating the crafty Frenchman, Sebastian Grosjean, in the semifinals and just barely losing to Andy Roddick, the second ranked player in the world, in the final after obtaining several match points. Ivan was playing phenomenally. Then he went to the US Open in Flushing Meadows, New York, and immediately lost to 58th ranked Hyung-Taik Lee of Korea.
Three months ago, Ivan played great tennis in the Madrid Tennis Masters Series, defeating Rainer Schuettler, Tim Henman, and gutting out a victory over the hard-hitting Joachim Johansson before losing to the scrappy Argentine David Nalbandian in the semifinal. This was a tournament to which only the top players in the world are invited - much like a Grand Slam. Just a week ago in the tournament in Doha, Qatar, Ljubicic defeated the promising young Spaniard Rafael Nadal and his veteran compatriot Albert Costa, only bowing out to the number one player in the world, Roger Federer, in the final.
Coming into the 2005 Australian Open, Ivan Ljubicic was playing magnificent tennis. It showed in the first round of the tournament, in which he handily defeated the hard-working Peruvian, Luis Horna, by a lopsided score of 6-4 6-3 6-3. Ljubicic confidently stated after the game that he "destroyed" his opponent from the baseline and described his play as "excellent."
However, in the second round of the tournament, Ljubicic failed to come through. Playing against Baghdatis, the talented but unpolished Cypriot baseliner who is ranked just 155th in the world, Ljubicic was defeated in four sets. Ivan had only 42 winners compared to 46 unforced errors, while Baghdatis played brilliantly, striking 72 winners and only hitting 33 unforced errors. Ljubicic converted on only one of eight break points.
Did Ljubicic just have an off-day? Everybody should be entitled to play poorly once in a while. Baghdatis did play extremely well, and even if Ivan had played as well as he had been in the past few months, the match would have been a battle. However, Ljubicic has set an astounding and incomprehensible pattern of losing early in Grand Slams to players worse than he is. There is absolutely no reason that Ljubicic should lose time and time again before the third round of a Grand Slam, especially when he is playing some of the best tennis of his life in all of the other tournaments.
As a fan of Croatian tennis and of Ivan Ljubicic, I pray that it is just a coincidence that Ivan fails to succeed in the Grand Slams of tennis. I pray that one of these days, he will show the world on the grandest stage what a talented player he actually is. I pray that he reaches the third, or even the fourth round (gasp!) of a major this year. Every knowledgeable tennis fan knows he is more than capable of doing this and much more.
Until then, I, along with the rest of his fans, will wait for Croatia's best and highest-ranked player to come through and finally play well at a major. It makes no sense why he can defeat Rainer Schuettler, Rafael Nadal, Sebastian Grosjean, and Tim Henman in regular tournaments and then go lose to 19-year-old Marcos Baghdatis in the second round of the 2005 Australian Open.
Until then, I will watch and wait patiently and eagerly for Ivan Ljubicic to win when it counts the most. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.

JEFFREY LESSER lives in West Orange, New Jersey, where he is a 16-year-old high school junior. A "straight A" student, Jeffrey is the editorials editor of his school newspaper, the Pioneer, and frequently contributes editorials, mainly about politics. Jeff is the captain of the boys' tennis team at West Orange High School. He hopes to attend Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he wants to major in sports medicine and become a licensed physician. His mother said that Jeff is such a big fan of Croatian tennis, he might as well just move to Croatia altogether.


Jeff can be reached

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