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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.