I have been in contact with Miodrag Bozovic, a very committed founder and organizer of a tennis tournament for kids called Smrikva Bowl, so I decided to spread the word about this tournament and also present some possible tennis stars of the future.
Smrikva Bowl is a tournament for kids under 10 years old, located near the city of Pula, in Croatia. It was founded in 1996 and over time, it has become one of the most important tournaments of the kind.
What impressed me the most about this tournament was that it survives on a limitless enthusiasm of its founder as well as on a large number of volunteers and friends who have recognized the beauty of the tournament. In 2007 kids from as much as four continents came to Croatia to take part in the event.
I thought that my readers would be interested in which youngsters have a potential to make it big when they grow up, but Miodrag Bozovic was reluctant to answer my question, with a solid reason: according to the statistics of his friend Luca Appino, a former marketing director of high-end tennis racquet manufacturer Babolat, only six per cent of the best juniors (from 16-year-olds onwards) reach the Top 100 when they become professional players. This means that chances of a promising 10-year-old of making it to the top are slim to none.
However, Miodrag hasn’t lost hope and there are many young players that he strongly believes in. For me, he singled out four promising girls.
Saska Gavrilovska from Serbia, born in 1995, won the Smrikva Bowl in 2004 and 2005. After winning the Smrikva Bowl, she found a sponsor from New York who helped her to start training in Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. Gavrilovska now predominantly plays tournaments in the USA, and when she was only 11 years old she reached the quarterfinals of the 2006 Orange Bowl.
Virginia Pena is another talented child. And what is more, she comes from Mallorca, a homeplace of both former world No.1 Carlos Moya and current world No.2 Rafael Nadal. Pena was born in 1997 and she was the Smrikva Bowl champion in 2007, while in 2006 she took the third place. This makes Virginia Pena the second best player at the Smrikva Bowl after Serbia’s Saska Gavrilovska.
The 16-year-old Petra Martic from Croatia is another female player the organizer of the Smrikva Bowl highly believes in. She won the event in 2001, and today, she is ranked 340th in the world after having competed in eight tournaments. Miodrag Bozovic believes that she has enough talent to crack the Top 100 in the near future. In the photo you can see Petra with the first prize – a bicycle.
And last but not least is the 2002 Smrikva Bowl finalist Ajla Tomljanovic born in 1993 in Croatia. Former world No.16 Goran Prpic said that he expects her to play at Roland Garros in two years time. The girl is from a celebrated sporting family, her father Ratko Tomljanovic was the captain of the Croatian national handball team when they won the Olympic gold in Atlanta. In the summer of 2007, Ajla moved to the States where she’s working on her tennis career.
I hope that some of these four girls will make it big, and that I will be able to say: “Oh, I was among the first ones to write about them, I heard of them when they were still kids”.