TENNIS STANDOUT UROS PETRONIJEVIC KEY TO TEAM’S SUCCESS
Newly minted USD Men’s Tennis Head Coach Ryan Keckley had only been on the job a few weeks when he figured out the winning recipe for the upcoming 2015-16 season: Serve Torero opponents a heaping helping of senior standout Uros Petronijevic, and watch them bite off more than they can chew.
“There aren’t a lot of players who are able to control a point solely off the accuracy of their groundstrokes, but Uros is definitely one of those players,”
Keckley says. “He’s one of the best ball strikers I’ve ever seen in my life, a true team leader and a key to our success.”
A major contributor to USD’s current 19-match win streak in the West Coast Conference (WCC), Petronijevic will be heavily relied upon to keep the team focused on their goal of winning an unprecedented third straight WCC title in 2015-16. That’s sure to be no easy task, now that the Toreros are squarely in the crosshairs of every one of their WCC rivals.
“We’re the two-time defending champs, and we’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” Keckley says. “Uros is used to that kind of pressure, and he’s one of those rare individuals who rises to the occasion every time he’s called on.”
Keckley witnessed that toughness and tenacity firsthand in an early season match against University of Georgia standout Wayne Montgomery. After winning a tough first set in a tiebreaker, Petronijevic lost the second set decisively, 6-3, and seemingly all forward momentum. That’s when things got interesting.
“Oh man, that third set against Wayne Montgomery, that’s the kind of tennis people pay top dollar to watch,” Keckley says. “Uros dug so deep in that third set. I was so fired up, I was having trouble keeping it together. He had to find another gear to win that match, and he did.”
In a sport where many of the top players rely heavily on height and power, the 5’9” Petronijevic is a study in precision and consistency, pinning his opponents behind the baseline with an arsenal of penetrating groundstrokes that keep even the strongest servers on their heels.
“A lot of this game is mental, and I know what my strengths and weaknesses on the court are,” Petronijevic says. “I try to keep opponents off balance. It seems simple, but it’s definitely easier said than done.”
Petronijevic’s career win-loss record at USD would suggest otherwise. He leads the team in career singles wins, both overall, and in the WCC (65 and 15, respectively, heading into the 2015-16 season).
“I really want to win conference one more time. It’s my senior year, and I really believe we are the best team in the conference going in,” Petronijevic says. “Stuff happens during the season, but if we can stay healthy, I really think we have a great shot at winning three in a row.” — Mike Sauer