Bangalore: It doesn't take much for Ilija Bozoljac to stand out. The 6'4 player, who once dated a former Miss World Canada, has a rock-star serve and accentuates his rock-star looks with powered glasses, a broad bandana and silver earrings. But, there's an awkwardness about him as he prepares to swing at yet another forehand at the KSLTA courts.
Ilija Bozoljac. Pic/AFP.
Tilting his body, both hands firmly gripped on the racquet handle, Bozoljac lets it rip. Maverick Frenchman Fabrice Santoro was the last of the tennis rebels who made the stroke ‘cool’.
“I started playing with a wooden racquet. It was too heavy for me to hold in just one hand so I couldn’t really play the single-handed forehand,” says the 29-year-old Bozoljac, who will team up with Nenad Zimonjic for Saturday’s doubles rubber against Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna in Serbia’s Davis Cup World Group playoff tie versus India.
“There are maybe some things in my game I would like to change, but it’s too late now for the double-handed backhand. For sure, if I have a daughter I will not let her play the way I do.”
The talented but erratic Bozoljac, who once gave Roger Federer a scare at Wimbledon by powering down 200 kmph serves, prefers to call himself a singles player even though he has been saddle with doubles duty this weekend.
“I am mainly a singles player, even though I think and people have told me that my game is more suited to doubles.” A confirmation of that came in summer last year when he and Zimonjic silenced the Bryan brothers, Mike and Bob, and a 20,000-strong Idaho crowd to win the doubles rubber against USA. Serbia beat USA 3-1 in the tie and Bozoljac instantly earned a reputation.
“That win gave us a bit of confidence. But when you win big matches like that it also creates a lot of pressure. People expect you to win more.”
When Bozoljac walks out on Saturday, he will once again have to eschew all that pressure. Ranked 227, Bozoljac, will once again be the odd one out on court, when sized up against doubles as ‘specialists’ Nenad Zimonjic (ranked 4), Leander Paes (35) and Rohan Bopanna (27), who have more than half a century of experience between them.