In the last ten days, Stefan Popović (playing for Red Star, born in 2003) won the Serbian National Indoor U-12 Championship and the U-12 Belgrade Open, so we are publishing an interview with him we made about a month ago. Beside winning these two tournaments, this year Stefan had great results in other strong U-12 tournaments! Just to remind you: won Novi Sad Open, a 2-nd category tournament played in TK Novi Sad 2002, won Čolan Memorial, 2nd-category tournament held in TK Red Star, played finals of Subotica Open, 1st-category tournament held in TK Spartak, played finals of Belgrade Championship, B-category tournament held in TK Partizan and played finals of Christmas tournament, 2-nd category tournament held in TK Red Star.
But, that’s not all! Stefan was also successful last year (in the U-10 category), winning U-10 Masters in Sopot and winning Serbian U-10 Cup played in ТК Zlatibor springs on Zlatibor!
Stefan, we would like to congratulate you on your great results! Could you tell us which finals was hardest for you to play, but the victory was sweetest?
Thank you for your congratulations! The most difficult finals this year was probably in Novi Sad, when, beside my opponent Nikola Mitrović, I played against more than 30 of his fans. In both sets, I was trailing 5-3 5-3, but I managed to turn both sets around and I won 7-5 7-5!! My dearest victory so far was in the finals of qualifications for Smirkva Bowl, against my friend and my great rival Hamad Međedović, in super tie-break!
When did you start practicing tennis and why did you choose an individual sport?
I started practicing when I was 5, and main culprit was my older brother Nemanja, who at that time has already been practicing and competing for several years. Watching him, I also started hitting tennis balls on and off the court, and I fell in love with tennis. Then, with emergence of my idol Rafa Nadal, I realized that tennis is the sport for me.
Could you tell us more about your tennis club and your coach?
I currently practice with my first coach Dejan Vukojičić, and we get along very well! Work, discipline and dedication are things that Dejan requires from me, and I try to meet his requests, and then results come.
How much do you work on conditioning with your coach, and what does a conditioning practice look like?
We work both on my game and on conditioning, and we talk and analyze all practices and matches.
What are your experiences from international tournaments?
Regarding my international experience – well, I played few tournaments, but many more will come in the near future. So far I played Smirkva Bowl in Croatia, Lemon Bowl in Italy, Tennis Europe on Trim, in Čačak, in Prokuplje, in Bar and in Koper. I was usually reaching quarterfinals and then losing to older kids!
Do you prepare yourself before tournaments in any special way?
I have no rituals. I try to open a match fully warmed-up, so things would go in the right direction from the beginning.
What brand of rackets do you use?
I play with Babolat rackets, and I mainly use Nike or Babolat clothes!
What do you consider to be your biggest strength in tennis, and what would you change or improve in your game?
My biggest strength is that I am good at all shots and that I can catch almost any ball and change rhythm of my opponent. In the coming period, I would have to work on calmness, and then I would be able to execute anything I want to.
What are your plans for the coming season? And what do you plan in ten years?
Difficult season is ahead of me, I need to justify the results I had so far and to play more tournaments in Europe, and in two, or three or ten years, we will see – with luck and hard work, I will see you in Wimbledon!!!
One last question: what is needed to play a drop-shot well?
Regarding drop-shot – it can not be taught, you just play it, and it goes through – and again, and again and again!!!!
Version of this text in Serbian