In the world of youth tennis, sometimes you have to grow up quickly. Ana Konjuh of Croatia has taken that to extremes.
Konjuh, 14, is competing in the girls’ 18 singles division in the Orange Bowl International tournament at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation. A year ago, she was competing in the 14s in this tournament, making it to the semifinals.
Since then, Konjuh has grown physically, and her tennis game has also grown.
“I didn’t imagine this success, but I’m really glad to be here and hope it continues like this,” she said.
“Last year, I played 14s and I won the European championship. It was really going well so I just continued on and here I am. There are other good players not playing 16s. Players are going to 18s right away.”
Even though Konjuh is several years younger than some of her opponents, she doesn’t let that bother her. On Tuesday, she defeated Alicia Black 6-1, 6-3 to advance, and this Orange Bowl International comes on the heels of Konjuh winning the 18s championship in the prestigious Eddie Herr tournament in Bradenton.
Age, apparently, is just a state of mind, although Konjuh admitted there is pressure in playing up in age. Also, in just playing.
“You win the Eddie Herr, and everybody expects you to do the same thing here,” she said. “People will talk no matter what you do.”
Konjuh started playing tennis at age 6. “I just kind of hit the ball with my sister,” she said. “Now she has stopped, so I guess I’m the only hope.”
Konjuh learned English while going to school in Croatia and speaks it almost perfectly.
“I think I’m a good student,” she said, looking embarrassed. “I’ve been getting all fives.” Those fives are the equivalent of As in the United States.
Her tennis idols are Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters. “Federer is like the god of tennis,” she said.
As for her future, she will take it slowly. She doesn’t know whether she will go to college in the United States, Croatia or elsewhere. “Too early,” she said. “I’m not really thinking about it right now — it’s too far away. We’ll see. It’s a really big decision. I just want to finish high school and concentrate on tennis.”
While she can speedily cover all areas of the court, she is a bit overwhelmed by the size and speed of life in the United States.
“The U.S. is, like, huge,” she said. “In Croatia, everything is small. I’m not used to life in the U.S. It’s a different rhythm of life.”
Konjuh doesn’t yet have all the answers about her future, but she’s certain of one thing: “My confidence right now is great.”
• All seven seeds playing in the boys’ 18s first round won Tuesday, with Thai-Son Kwiatkowski from Charlotte, N.C., the only seeded American left.
The girls’ 16 second round was highlighted by Jessica Golovin from New York defeating No. 1 seed Johnnise Renaud, of North Miami.
• Complete results, 10D