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Milan Mirkovic is a freshman tennis player from Croatia. His favorite things about Hillsdale are the kindness of his fellow stu­dents and the quality of the tennis program. Mirkovic plans to major in financial man­agement. (Photo: Courtesy / Milan Mirkovic)

How old were you when you started playing tennis? 

I was, I think, 10 years old. I was a pretty good junior league player, and then I stopped playing tennis when I was 15 years old, and then I decided to go full time to the gym. I just lifted weights, tried to build muscle and gain weight in order to be as big as pos­sible, and this phase lasted for approx­i­mately two years. During this time, I com­pletely changed my body com­po­sition. My heaviest was 205 pounds.

When I turned 17, I realized that what I was doing made no sense. So, I came back to tennis, and it took a long time to lose all that weight, muscle, size, and to lean down. And I’ve been playing since then.

When did you start par­tic­i­pating in tennis com­pe­ti­tions? 

I only com­peted until I was 13 or 14 years old. I was pretty good as a junior. I was one of the top players in Croatia under these younger cat­e­gories. But when I stopped playing, it affected my game. When I came back from break it took me a long time to get phys­i­cally pre­pared to play tennis again, and then I was too old to play in any serious com­pe­ti­tions in Croatia. After you turn 18 years old, if you do not want to be a pro­fes­sional player, you will probably go to Germany or the U.S. And I decided to go to the U.S. 

How did you dis­cover Hillsdale’s tennis program? 

I heard about Hillsdale on one of the recruiting web­sites, and I think I sent a message to the coach. He was able to offer me a good deal, and I wanted to come to the U.S. I remember that it was April, and I still did not know what I wanted to do. I thought to myself that I wouldn’t be able to go to the U.S. if I didn’t find any schools. I had taken so much time to take tests and prepare that when he offered me a good deal, I said, ‘Yes,’ even without really thinking about it.   

How do you feel about your tennis career at Hillsdale thus far? 

This season has been very good. This is our second season as a team — we are doing way, way better than the first season. We have already defeated teams who are regionally ranked and who are very suc­cessful. I think coach is very proud of us. We are very proud of our­selves, as well. Building a small com­munity as a team is getting much better. The freshmen used to be sort of sep­arate from the older guys — maybe not getting along as well as result of us not knowing them — but this semester, things are much better. Com­mu­ni­cation and inter­action between the freshmen and older team­mates has gone up sig­nif­i­cantly. Freshmen feel more com­fortable asking ques­tions and demanding things from all the other team­mates now.   

What sparked your love for tennis? 

My father used to watch tennis on the TV, and one day I decided to give it a try. We went to a local tennis club. There, we met this tennis coach and he talked to us and he basi­cally advised me to give it a shot and I did. I actually enjoyed the game, and I was pretty good in the beginning, and I decided to stick to tennis. And that’s how it all hap­pened.  

Did you play any other sports? 

I used to play soccer before tennis when I was eight years old. I played for a year or so, then I stopped and started playing tennis. I didn’t really like soccer. I did it because I wanted to get into sports, not because I was pas­sionate about soccer.  

Is this what 10-year-old you believed you would be doing at your first tennis lesson? 

No, I was probably thinking of Wim­bledon or about making big money playing tennis. But you know, dreams rarely come true. As I grew older, I learned to look at things more real­is­ti­cally and this was a real­istic option for me. It was a much better option than studying in Croatia.