Only 25-years-old Donna Vekic is already a solid part of the Top 25 of the WTA Ranking, and now she shared her tennis story.

Vekic managed to win her first WTA title already in 2014 in Kuala Lumpur. It took her another 3 years to win her 2nd title in 2017, still at a very young age. Now, the 24-years-old Croatian is holding her place among the best and has a big career ahead. For behindtheracquet.com Donna shared her whole tennis story.

“I started playing tennis when I was six years old. From four to six I practiced gymnastics. It’s one of my favorite sports, especially to watch on TV. When I started gymnastics was never to be a professional or anything. I was getting better and better but one day the coaches came up to my parents and told them I would be too tall for it. Looking back I guess they were right. The summer was approaching and my parents said I should try something else. I said, ‘Why not tennis?’ From the first day, I was really into it. I remember rolling my ankle in my house before the first practice but still went. I enjoyed tennis from the beginning but probably because I was so competitive, I hated to lose and needed to win, I do really love tennis. There is nothing quite like playing a night match, especially at Grand Slams. You can tell I love tennis when I spend the whole day on-site and the first thing I do when I get back to the hotel is turn the TV on and watch more tennis,” said Vekic.

Breakthrough in the Women’s Tennis Association

“I remember having one of my longest losing streaks. I was around 16 years old and lost seven matches in a row, and this was when I was restricted to the number of professional tournaments I could play, I couldn’t just play week after week to try and get that win, I finally won my first match after a while at Indian Wells. It was such a relief. After losing a couple of matches it gets in your head, thinking I didn’t have what it took. The struggle was moving up the rankings quickly. I was 16 and already top 100 in the world. I won my first WTA event at 17. Every time I reached a final or won a tournament, the next few after would be a waste. I would lose early from all the pressure I put on myself to have to win. I really didn’t enjoy playing from around 18-20 years old. Everyone expected me to keep on winning from when I was 16. It just doesn’t always happen like that, it’s so rare. Now when I see all these young girls, I know it will eventually stop. From then it’s just how they deal with it and move past it. A lot of the pressure is coming from the media. I remember reading an article where they called me a ‘tourist’ at the tournament. I was never into reading too much about myself, didn’t pay too much attention to it all. It was easier at times because I wouldn’t spend too much time in Croatia to listen to what people said. Even if you don’t try you always hear that people are talking about you. I was still working hard, practicing, doing everything right, but it was just not being shown in matches. I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t enjoying tennis. Things changed and my ranking went from outside the top 100 to top 20 in the world. I really grew up, through the natural process of growing up and just became older. I cannot say it was because I was working harder, I was just smarter about it all,” Vekic said.

Present and friends on Tour

“The last couple of years I have been so lucky to have an amazing year. Between my head coach, Torben Beltz and my fitness coach, Zlatko Novkovic, they have both really helped me. I don’t know what I would do without them. We get along so well I actually look forward to going away to tournaments and being with them. Torben is such a positive guy which is so important for me. I can get down on myself and am really hard on myself. I find balance as I am also a very social and friendly person. There are some nights where I am going to stay in my room, not talk to anyone and get room service. Most times I either have dinner with my team or friends. I am friendly with most girls on the tour. One of my closest friends is Maria Sakkari and it is never easy having to play her, which I have done a few times recently. It’s terrible. We both want to win the match and we have this friendship. The worst part is she knows every single move I will do. I know what she is thinking at any given moment, just like she does. It makes it so unusual. The whole time I am thinking, ‘I just want this match to be over.’ I am not thinking too much about the friendship during the match because I know we will always have it. We always have this thing where the winner pays for dinner,” said Donna Vekic.

Final words and advice for the NextGen

“My best advice for the next generation of tennis players is to find positivity. Don’t overthink too much and try to look at the larger picture. Think long term process, because even now I catch myself thinking about wanting it now and that doesn’t help me play better. It’s tough to do but you need that great team around you to help you with all of that. Not everyone can have it, it’s not easy, that’s why tennis is so tough,” Vekic said.

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“There is nothing quite like playing a night match, especially at Grand Slams. You can tell I love tennis when I spend the whole day on site and the first think I do when I get back to the hotel is turn the TV on and watch more tennis. I remember having one of my longest losing streaks. I was around 16 years old and lost seven matches in a row, and this was when I was restricted to the amount of professional tournaments I could play. I couldn’t just play week after week to try and get that win. I finally won my first match after a while at Indian Wells. It was such a relief. After losing a couple matches it gets in your head, thinking I didn’t have what it took. The struggle was moving up the rankings quickly. I was 16 and already top 100 in the world. I won my first WTA event at 17. Every time I reached a final or won a tournament, the next few after would be a waste. I would lose early from all the pressure I put on myself to have to win. I really didn’t enjoy playing from around 18-20 years old. Everyone expected me to keep on winning from when I was 16. It just doesn’t always happen like that, it’s so rare. Now when I see all these young girls, I know it will eventually stop. From then it’s just how they deal with it and move pass it. A lot of the pressure is coming from media. I remember reading an article where they called me a ‘tourist’ at the tournament. I was never into reading too much about myself, didn’t pay too much attention to it all. It was easier at times because I wouldn’t spend too much time in Croatia to listen to what people said. Even if you don’t try you always hear that people are talking about you. I was still working hard, practicing, doing everything right, but it was just not being shown in matches. I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t enjoying tennis. Things changed and my ranking went from outside the top 100 to top 20 in the world. I really grew up, through the natural process of growing up and just became older. I cannot say it was because I was working harder, I was just smarter about it all.” @donnavekic Go to behindtheracquet.com for extended stories, podcast and merch.

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Author: Erik Virostko