As the Miami University tennis team approaches their 2014 spring season, MURedHawks.com will highlight a different player each week as a part of the Tennis Tracker series.
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami sophomore Ana Rajkovic says that she looks back at one specific day from last season’s Mid-American Conference championship season for the RedHawks as a pivotal moment in the season. A rough 4-3 loss at home against MAC rival Ball State on March 23.
Miami dropped the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 singles matches in addition to the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles bouts. The loss snapped a RedHawk 33-match win streak in MAC regular-season play that dated back to April 12, 2008. Rajkovic says that head coach Anca Dumitrescu used the loss as a teaching moment for the RedHawks.
“There was a turning point we had after the tough loss to Ball State,” said Rajkovic. “I just feel like we came together as a team. Before that everybody would have an individual day where some people would play well and other people wouldn’t be so good.”
The indoor match represented the opening portion of team’s MAC schedule, but would ultimately be the only conference match that the squad lost all year. Miami recovered to finish 7-1 in regular season conference play en route to a MAC regular season title. The squad then went on to win the MAC Tournament and earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
Head Coach Anca Dumitrescu speaks highly of Rajkovic and says the team will benefit from improvements she has made since last season.
“Ana is a very strong and athletic player,” said Dumitrescu. “Last year we worked a lot on improving her consistency and learning how to use her athleticism effectively on the court. She has become a more mature player this year and she has really improved her mental toughness. As we get into our dual season, I am looking forward to her establishing herself as one of the leaders on the team especially in challenging situations.”
As a freshman last year, Rajkovic had a long and wild ride. At the beginning of the fall semester, she moved to Oxford, Ohio from her home in Belgrade, Serbia.
“It was a big adjustment mostly because I am from a really big city, two to three million people, and then I come to Oxford,” said Rajkovic.
Rajkovic wrapped up her freshman campaign with a 14-16 overall singles record including a strong 6-2 showing in conference play. In doubles play, she split time with various different partners and played primarily in the No. 3 doubles slot.
“I started off last year badly, but then I changed my game,” said Rajkovic. “Coach Dumitrescu wanted me to change it. I became more consistent. I fought for points better and focused on putting more top spin on the ball. It took me awhile to adjust to it but right now I think it was a great idea and I can see why Coach Dumitrescu wanted me to do that.”
By the end of the year, Rajkovic was on a plane once again, this time bound for Stanford, Calif. where the team would face the Cardinals in the NCAA Tournament. In the program’s third ever NCAA Tournament appearance, the Red and White fell in Palo Alto by a score of 4-0. Rajkovic says that the entire team has that day engrained in their heads.
“We all have high expectations,” said Rajkovic while discussing the team’s plans for this year. “Hopefully winning the first round of NCAAs. That’s our next goal”.
No Miami tennis team has ever won their first round matchup in the NCAA tournament. Rajkovic and the rest of this year’s squad is focused on bucking that trend.