Recent Princeton grad Matija Pecotic began his career at Princeton with a simple goal: making the starting lineup.
This weekend and into next week, he and former Princeton teammate Lindsay Graff will compete for spots in the US Open.
The first three-time Ivy League Player of the Year in college tennis history, Pecotic was the men’s singles champion during the Middle States Section Qualifier in the US Open National Playoffs, while Graff took home the singles title on the women’s side. Both will compete individually in the tournament’s final round at Yale, which is run in conjunction with the New Haven Open August 16-19. Winners of each will advance to the qualifying rounds of the US Open.
Next week, Graff and Pecotic will team up in the doubles competition, with the winner of that tournament automatically earning a spot in the US Open main draw. The mixed doubles championship runs from Aug. 21-24.
The competitors in the Men’s Singles Championship range in age from 16 to 29 and have played in tournaments all over the world, including the US Open Junior Championships and the NCAA Championships. Players in the Women’s Singles Championship hail from six different countries.
Pecotic will face 18-year-old JC Aragone, a recent high school graduate who won Southern California’s qualifier. Graff will match up against Northern California’s champion, Giuliana Olmos, who plays at the University of Southern California.
Middle States recently caught up with Pecotic and Graff for bag checks, learning more about what makes the duo tick, and what future might hold on the tennis court.
Age began playing: 4
Hometown: Sliema, Malta
Hobbies: Spearfishing, running, classical music and European team handball
Major at Princeton: Politics
Career highlights: Ivy League Player of the Year again in 2013, becoming the first three-time Ivy POY in the sport’s history…first-team All-Ivy League in singles and doubles…advanced to the NCAA singles tournament as a No. 9-16 seed and won his first-round match, becoming the first Tiger to win an NCAA men’s singles tournament match since 1996…was ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation and No. 1 in the Northeast in singles and No. 11 in the nation in doubles by the ITA…in the spring, went 17-4 in singles, play, including 7-0 in Ivy play to finish his winning streak at 22 Ivy singles matches.
Always in the bag: “Headphones and warm-up cables.”
On the iPod: “Mike Tyson quotes. I’m a big fan of boxing, and I box for fitness. I like listening to boxing quotes because it gets me in that mindset of preparing for a fight and being ready for your opponent.”
Changes since first day at Princeton: “I’m such a different person, and have changed so much. The past few years have been the best experience of my life, and I’m grateful for every minute of it.”
Interesting fact: Only played in 13 junior matches before coming to the United States for college
What’s next? “I’m hoping to play full time for the next two years, and at that time, I’ll see how things are going and where I stand. Until then, I’ll be playing as hard as I can and trying to win as many matches as possible. I’d like to reach a high level. I think I can do pretty well.”
Age began playing: 5
Favorite music: Alternative
Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Major: Aerospace Engineering
Career highlights: Unanimous first-team All-Ivy honors in singles last season…second team All-Ivy in singles 2012…first team All-Ivy in doubles in 2012. Before Princeton, was a three-time Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel Player of the Year in both singles and doubles, accruing a 32-4 singles and 26-3 doubles record over her final three years in high school … won a Florida Class 2A doubles title in 2009 and singles title in 2011.
Began playing because: “I happened to walk by a TV and see Lindsay Davenport and Steffi Graf playing each other in the finals of the US Open. And I noticed that my name was essentially a combination of their first and last name. It seemed like a good enough reason to start playing at the time.”
Unique things in tennis bag: “My tennis bag is like a black hole. Things go in there and then I forget about them, so they don’t come out for a while. I once lost my car keys and couldn’t find them, only to see them floating around my bag a few days later. My phone has also gone missing for a couple hours before I found it in there. I’ve come to realize that if I can’t find something, my tennis bag is usually a good place to start looking.”
Superstitions: “I need to eat the same thing before every match of a tournament, but it changes from tournament to tournament. And I’m pretty sure I use the same bathroom stall at the site. I think that’s a subconscious superstition though.”