Battling Against the Odds: Passion Is the Best Medicine


Aidan O'Connor

Jovana Jaksic has been through it all during her time as a professional tennis player – success, fame, injuries, popularity, hate, and even more injuries. Now being faced with career threatening  mononucleosis, she is still determined to make it to the top. Why? “Love and passion for this sport,” says Jaksic.

Jaksic started tennis at the age of eight years old, which is quite late for tennis players. When she was 12 years old, she lost a match against an opponent who cheated. She came off the court crying, and declared that she wanted to play tennis everyday “to beat them all.” 

Eventually, she rose up the junior tennis ranks, achieving immense success on the ITF circuit. Her move to the professionals was quick, and she enjoyed many early wins. In 2014, she competed in the main draws of the French Open and Wimbledon, coming just points away from making the second round in both. Jaksic made history by making the finals of a WTA event in Mexico when she reached a career high ranking of 102 in the world. Jaksic was deemed a WTA Rising Star who had a top prospect for being under 21 years old. After finishing the triumphant season, she took a vacation and began training for the next season in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, because of heavy lifting, she incurred three herniated discs down her back.

This back injury plagued her 2015 season as she was forced to take over a month off to recover, but it did little help as she played the rest of the season in pain. Thus, she did not achieve her desired results and “lost her way.” When asked about her most challenging season, Jaksic explains, “I would say 2015. I’ve started facing serious back injury, then some personal issues that had been going on, I started dropping my ranking and I moved to another country.”

The following year, fortuitous for Jaksic, as she competed at all four grand slams, including winning a round in qualifying at the U.S. Open and at Wimbledon. After achieving such invigorating results for the majority of the season her back injury resurfaced, resulting in a less than desirable outcome. Throughout 2017, she struggled to make consistent results, having a few good results sporadically. Jaksic ended the season on five straight losses, and was forced to retire from her last singles match. She finished the ranked number 312 in the world, her worst placement in over five years.

This year, Jaksic started out January with two good-showings, before getting bronchitis, the fever, and another injury, having to pull out of even more tournaments. In June, Jaksic ventured to Singapore to play in a string of ITF tournaments, and achieved great results there. She came back to the U.S., where she built on her good form. Jaksic then finished the summer in China, making the finals of a 25k tournament and boosting up her ranking to 253 in the world, much better than 372. Taking on the fall, Jaksic began in Canada and the states, where she had a few poor losses. Jaksic said, “I was having constant fevers, I was feeling very weak and dizzy and I just could not perform at any level that my profession requires me to do.” Due to this, Jaksic was eventually diagnosed with mononucleosis. Common amongst tennis players, due to their constant training and travelling, Mononucleosis results in extreme fatigue, fevers, and liver issues.

Jaksic played her last match on October 4th, after which her illness forced her to be excluded for the season. Currently she is resting, reading, spending time with family, and trying to recover. Although Jaksic does not know when she will get better, it is predicted that she will resume her training in the off-season, usually including practicing for roughly five to six hours each day. When asked about her upcoming tournament plans, she said, “I still don’t know any of it, I’ll need to make sure to get well first”.

Jaksic hopes bounce back stronger for January 2019. Of her goals, Jaksic explains, “To be healthy, that’s first, then second to get to top 150 and closer to 100 at the end of next year.”

Jaksic has a colorful personality, always displaying her emotions on the court. She says the best decision she made was to remind herself “that I don’t care what the other people think about me and not to change for anyone and to always be myself.”

If she could have a second career, it would in in “Psychology. I would want to help other athletes and young kids in the mental area and share my experience with them from the early age.” She embraces all that she has done and is proud of everything she has done. Jaksic can’t wait for next year and hopes for a healthy, injury free year of 2019 with much success.