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(E) Matijevic ready to help build tennis success
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  10/29/2002 | Sports | Unrated
(E) Matijevic ready to help build tennis success


Matijevic ready to help build tennis success

Matijevic reached the singles' semifinals

By Gary Livingston
October 23, 2002 

When Texas A&M sophomore men's tennis player Ante Matijevic first stepped foot on American soil in January 2002, he wasn't sure what to expect. The sophomore had lived his entire life in Croatia, and to continue his dream of playing tennis, he came to the United States. 

"It was really exciting the first three weeks," Matijevic said. "Everything was so big it was unbelievable. People are so nice, I didn't expect people to say 'hi' to strangers, that would never happen in Croatia." 

There is also an appealing aspect of college life which Matijevic hasn't mastered yet.

"I'm single because it's so tough to date," Matijevic said. "The girls here are very pretty and very nice."

While still learning U.S. culture, Matijevic has had no problems on the tennis court. He was named the Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year last season, and has shown signs of improvement this season by advancing to two semifinals in consecutive tournaments. 

Two weeks ago at the ITA All-American Championships in Tennessee, Matijevic teamed up with sophomore Lester Cook and the duo had the best performance by an A&M doubles team ever by advancing to the semifinals. The duo is currently ranked No. 14 in the nation. 

This past weekend, Matijevic reached the singles' semifinals at the Midland Invitational, eventually losing to the tournament's No. 1 seed Toni Gordon.

"I have been really pleased with Ante's performance," said A&M men's tennis head coach Tim Cass. "He had the best record for us in the spring. He has a 4.0 GPA, he has really embraced A&M, and he has great maturity for an 18-year old."

Part of that maturity could be attributed to the environment in which Matijevic grew up in. He grew up in a life most Aggies could never imagine. For years his country was torn apart by the wars in Bosnia. Some of the fighting took place only 30 miles from his town, and the Serbs attacked his small town of Split on one occasion.

"I was young so I don't remember too much," Matijevic says. "The war was close to my town, so school was closed down on some days. I remember crying when my father left because he was a doctor and was involved in the war. But, things are getting better, and the economy is stable."

Since he picked up a tennis racket at the age of eight, Matijevic has grown to love the game of tennis. His parents didn't play, but he watched matches on TV and got interested in the sport. The only problem was that after high school there wasn't much opportunity in his country. Matijevic said this is because people don't have a lot of money to support programs, and that conditions are bad.

Matijevic had to make a tough decision: should he stay with his family in Croatia, or pursue his dream of playing tennis? Matijevic chose the latter and began researching U.S. college programs. He wanted to play for a good team, and noticed A&M was ranked in the top five at the time, so he wrote a letter to Cass.

Cass first found out about Matijevic through the internet because Tres Davis, who played for A&M at that time, had competed against Matijevic. Through some talking and luck, Matijevic came to A&M. Even though he said he is having fun here, Matijevic still misses his family.

"We talk everyday by e-mail, and at least once a week by phone," Matijevic said. "I got to see them this past summer, and I'm going home for Christmas."

Matijevic has learned to embrace the U.S. way of life. He goes out with the team every once and a while, he likes to drink coffee, and says he has attempted to dance but is not that good. He has become good friends with A&M basketball player Tomas Ress who also hails from Europe. His teammates joke around with him by calling him Arnold because he sounds like the action movie star. 

Matijevic has some big goals for himself and the A&M program this season. He wants to be one of the top ranked players and wants to win a team championship while he is at A&M. 

Cass said Matijevic has already shown a great work ethic and his confidence is going to lead him to be great player. 

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