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 a girl who cheated. She came off the court crying, and declared that she wanted to play tennis every day and “beat them all.” That’s exactly what she did.

She rose up the junior tennis ranks, enjoying immense success on the ITF circuit. Her move to the professionals was quick, and she enjoyed many early wins. 2014 was her breakthrough year, as 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. She reached a career-high ranking of 102 in the world. Jaksic was deemed a WTA Rising Star and top prospect of under 21-year-old talent. After finishing the season, she took a vacation and began training for the next season. This was spent in Las Vegas, where due to her coach requiring her to do the heavy lifting, she incurred three herniated discs in her back.

This back injury plagued her 2015 season, as she was forced to take over a month off resting and recovering, but it did little help as she played the rest of the season in pain. Thus, the results didn’t come and she “lost her way.” After asked what was 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/continent”.

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 good results for the majority of the season, she ended the season on a poor note, as her back injury resurfaced. Throughout 2017, she struggled to make consistent results, having a few good results here and there. Jaksic ended the season on five straight losses and was forced to retire from her last singles match with the lingering back injury. She finished the year at world number 312, her worst year-end ranking 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. During June, Jaksic ventured to Singapore to play in a string of ITF tournaments and achieved great results there. She came back to the USA, where she built on her good form. Jaksic 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, from a few months back. Taking on the fall, Jaksic began in Canada and the states, where she had a few poor losses. Jaksic said, “I was having a constant fever, 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 got tested and was diagnosed with mononucleosis. It is common with tennis players because they spend many hours training each day and they travel a lot, making it harder on their bodies. Mononucleosis results in fatigue, fevers, and swelling of the liver.

Jaksic played her last match on October 4th, after which her illness forced her to be out for the rest of the season. She is currently resting, reading books, spending time with family, and trying to get healthy again. It is unknown when she will get better, as it takes sometimes months to recover. Once she gets better, she will resume her training in the off-season, which usually includes practicing for roughly five to six hours each day. When asked 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 to be better for January 2019. Of her goals, Jaksic explains, “To be healthy, that’s first, then second to get to the 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 her best decision she made was “that I don’t care what the other people think about me and not to change for any time and to always be myself”.

If she could have a second career, it would in “Psychology. I would wanna help other athletes and young kids in the mental area and share my experience with them from an 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, the injury-free year of 2019 with much success.