Croatia is a country that has produced more than its fair share of tennis greats. For a country with a population of under 4 million people, it is hard to believe how many incredible tennis players have gone on to become tennis greats. In this article, we take a look at some of the best Croatian tennis players the country has produced on both the men’s and women’s tours, both current and former players.
Not only is Goran Ivanišević considered one of the greatest Croatian tennis players of all time, he is one of THE greatest tennis players of all time in our view. Goran Ivanišević won 22 singles titles in his tennis career, including Wimbledon in 2001, and reached the number two position in the world rankings. A charismatic left-hander who had the most incredible serve, at times Goran could simply blow his opponents off the court. At his best, he was unplayable with one of the best serves in the game and a powerful forehand. He was also very comfortable at the net. His greatest achievement was beating Pat Rafter in the 2001 Wimbledon final, he is still the only men’s wildcard to have won the tournament and become a grand slam champion. Since retirement, he has worked with some of the world’s top players as a coach and most recently has been a regular in Novak Djokovic’s camp.
Marin Cilic is one of the most popular Croatian players in tennis. In his career, he has won 20 singles career ATP titles, including the 2014 US Open, and has been consistently ranked among the world’s top players. He still competes on the ATP tour at the top level today and has been blighted with injury in recent years. Like Goran, Marin is a big server and has a good all-round game. He is as comfortable on the forehand as he is on the backhand, his flat forehand winning him many points. He also moves very well for a man of his size. Marin is also one of the most liked people on the tour, people comment on how decent a guy he is. All of that combines puts him on this list.
Ivan ljubičić was a key player in Croatia’s Davis Cup triumph in 2005. He reached a career-high ranking of world number three and won 10 singles career titles in a fantastic career.
Ljubicic turned professional in 1998 and made a name for himself on the international tennis scene with his consistent and determined performances. He never achieved a Grand Slam victory but made the latter stages of the French Open, Wimbledon Championships, and the US Open. His greatest Grand Slam achievement came in 2006 when he reached the semifinals of the French Open. Probably his biggest win was his victory in the prestigious Indian Wells Masters tournament in 2010 (known as the fifth major). He was known for his sportsmanship and dedication to the game, earning respect from both his peers and tennis fans. After retiring from professional tennis in 2012, Ivan Ljubicic transitioned to a successful career as a coach. He is best known recently for being beside the Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer, helping Federer maintain his elite level of play and achieve additional success in the latter stages of his career. This partnership was strong and Ljubicic’s impact on Federer’s career was widely acknowledged in the tennis community. He now works with the French tennis federation helping develop the next gen of French players and he continues to grow his fantastic Ljubicic tennis academy in Croatia.
Ivo Karlovic, often affectionately referred to as the “Ace King,” is a Croatian tennis sensation known for his towering height and record-breaking serve. Born in 1979, in Zagreb, Croatia, Karlovic has made a huge impact on the professional tennis circuit. He was hard to miss standing at an astounding 6 feet 11 inches (211 cm), Karlovic is actually one of the tallest players in the history of the sport. His extraordinary height has been both an advantage and a distinctive feature of his playing style. The highest ranking of 14 in the world and 8 ATP tour titles are impressive stats for the Croatian. Unsurprisingly his playing style is centered around his incredible serve, which was not only fast but incredibly accurate. He has consistently been one of the top servers in the game, frequently leading the ATP Tour in aces (he finished his career on 13,728 aces only behind John Isner). His serve often exceeds speeds of 140 miles per hour (225 km/h), making it an intimidating weapon for any opponent. One of the most memorable moments in Karlovic’s career came at the 2009 Davis Cup, where he played a historic 78-game fifth set against Radek Stepanek. The match lasted for an astonishing 5 hours and 59 minutes, setting a record for the longest Davis Cup match in history. Karlovic’s game revolved around the serve but I think the rest of his game was underrated. He had good touch and groundstrokes to match, he was always that opponent that no one wanted to face in the draw. His last game on the ATP World Tour was in 2021.
Mario Ančić was one of the most promising young players to come out of Croatia, who hails from Split like Ivaniševic.
Mario Ancic was known for his versatile and graceful style of play. He possessed a powerful serve and a well-rounded game, which allowed him to excel on all court surfaces. His ability to adapt to different playing conditions and opponents made him a formidable competitor.
Ancic’s net skills were particularly impressive, and his volleys were known for their precision and consistency. He was often hailed as one of the last true serve-and-volley players, employing an attacking style that delighted tennis purists (not too disimilar to Marin Cilic). He won his first ATP title in 2005 at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, a grass-court event where his serve-and-volley game shone. He also claimed another ATP title in 2006 in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 2004 he reached the semifinals of the Wimbledon Championships, demonstrating his prowess on grass courts and earning the nickname “Super Mario” from fans. He was a Davis Cup hero for Croatia and played a pivotal role in helping his country secure the Davis Cup title in 2005.
Unfortunately, injuries plagued Ancic’s career, leading to his early retirement from professional tennis in 2011. However, he didn’t bid farewell to the sport entirely. After hanging up his racket, Ancic pursued a legal career, earning a law degree and working as a lawyer. He now works on Wall Street in New York.
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, a Croatian tennis sensation, is renowned for her remarkable career journey, overcoming adversities, and her playing style. Born in 1982, in Dortmund, Germany, she left an enduring mark on the sport of tennis. She captured a total of four WTA singles titles, including her first-time major victory in the doubles at the 1998 Australian Open.
Mirjana Lučić-Baroni’s playing style was characterized by her powerful groundstrokes, aggressive net play, and an ability to dictate points. She had a powerful serve and a relentless forehand, which she used to dominate opponents. Her fearless and attacking approach to the game made her a great opponent on both grass and hard courts.
Lučić-Baroni’s tennis journey was punctuated by personal challenges, including a highly publicized estrangement from her family. She courageously overcame these difficulties and persevered in the sport she loved, earning admiration and respect for her determination and resilience.
In 2017, she had a remarkable run at the Australian Open, reaching the semifinals late in her career, marking her return to the upper echelons of the game. After retirement, Mirjana trialed a comeback at 41 years of age in 2021.
Majoli, who won the 1997 French Open, reached a career-high ranking of world number 4 in the WTA rankings, the highest ever achieved by a Croatian player
Iva Majoli is a former professional tennis player from Croatia. Born in 1977, in Zagreb, Croatia, Majoli made her mark on the tennis circuit, a notable career highlight was winning the French Open in 1997. Her victory at the French Open, where she defeated the legendary Martina Hingis in the final, marked her as one of the most promising young players in tennis. Majoli’s triumph at Roland Garros remains one of the defining moments of her career, earning her a Grand Slam title. Throughout her professional career, she also won several other WTA titles, showcasing her versatility and ability to compete at a high level in the sport. Majoli was known for her baseline style of play. She had powerful groundstrokes and a strong backhand, which allowed her to rally from the baseline effectively. Her agility and footwork made her a formidable opponent on clay courts, contributing to her victory at the French Open.
Iva Majoli’s ability to construct points hit accurate passing shots, and maintain a consistent level of play made her a respected competitor in the world of women’s tennis. Her athleticism and court coverage were essential components of her playing style. Iva retired with a career-high ranking of 4 in the world and 8 career titles to her name.
Petra Martić is a Croatian professional tennis player known for her versatile playing style and notable achievements in women’s singles tennis. She was born on January 19, 1991, in Split, Croatia, and has made a name for herself on the international tennis scene. Petra Martić turned professional in 2008 and steadily climbed the rankings to a career-high of 14 in 2021. Her breakthrough came in 2019 when she reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, one of the sport’s Grand Slam tournaments. Martić’s game is characterized by her all-court ability, powerful groundstrokes, and a strong backhand. She is often relying on her powerful serve and aggressive baseline play to outmaneuver opponents. While her French Open quarterfinal appearance was a career highlight, Martić has also reached the fourth round of all of the other Grand Slam events. Her success on various court surfaces, from clay to hard courts, showcases her adaptability and skill. Petra Martić has captured two WTA singles titles, demonstrating her ability to compete at the highest level of the sport. We can’t wait to see what is next for Petra.
Borna Coric is another current player who feels like he has been around for some time and he’s still only 26 years of age. Born in 1996 in Zagreb, he turned pro is 2013. His highest ranking is 12 and he has 3 career titles to date. I think Borna is one of the most underrated players on tour. He has it all, the strokes, the physique and ability and yet I feel that he is yet to really fulfil his ambition. At times he has beaten some of the top players in the world but has never really challenged in the majors. That said I still think he is one to watch.
Pavić is one of the world’s top doubles players, having reached the number one position in the world in doubles in 2018. He has an incredible 6 Grand Slam Doubles titles to his name, 3 in men’s doubles and three in mixed. He has a total of 36 titles on the doubles tour to date and has an Olympic gold medal from the 2020 summer Olympics.
Mate is one of the best doubles players of his generation. He has everything, a towering physique who moves well, he has the shots and the brain to be two steps ahead of his opponents. He really is a formidable doubles specialist and at the age of 30 there is much more to come.
Croatia has a successful tennis tradition for many reasons. A well-run Croatian Tennis Federation that supports grassroots tennis culture, investments in tennis infrastructure and coaching, and follows the success of its players both former and current. Croatia has also become a bit of a specialist hub with many specialist doubles players in their ranks. The future looks in good hands for this small, yet powerful tennis country.
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