URBANA – It's not too surprising that Katarina Marjanovic became a tennis player.
The sport is a Marjanovic family institution. The family affectionately calls Atkins Tennis Center – where they play and volunteer regularly – their second home.
In fact, tennis brought the family together. Katarina's parents Nenad and Marina first met at a tennis court in their native Serbia. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in 1987 when Marina enrolled at the University of Illinois to attain her doctorate in physiology. They liked the community so much that they decided to settle and raise a family in Urbana. Both played tennis frequently when Katarina and her brother, Uros, 23, were growing up.
"She started by running around the court when we were playing," Marina Marjanovic said. "People ask us when she started, but we really don't know. We have pictures of her holding a racquet when she was like 5 years old."
Katarina, a sophomore at Urbana High School, led the area with a 26-3 record, including a 2-2 mark at state. Marjanovic, The News-Gazette's All-Area Girls' Tennis Player of the Year, was Urbana High School's No. 1 player for a second straight year leading the team to an undefeated record of 10-0.
"I think sometimes I forget that she's a sophomore," Urbana High School tennis coach Melissa Welch said. "She is pretty mature for her age."
"I felt like I should set an example for the rest of my team," Marjanovic said. "Win or lose, I should go down fighting. I mean, I'm a sophomore but I still felt like a leader, especially for the freshmen."
Marjanovic won the No. 1 singles title in the Big 12 Conference meet. She was nearly perfect in sectionals, beating each of her first three opponents 6-0, 6-0. The only game she lost came in the sectional title match when she defeated her opponent 6-1, 6-0. Marjanovic thinks she should have run the table.
"I don't know why I lost that one game," Marjanovic said. "I was actually up in that game, and when she was serving I thought, 'Wow, I haven't lost a game yet.' Then I lost a game, so I guess I jinxed myself."
Marjanovic went on to win two matches at state in straight sets. Both of her losses at the tournament came in three sets.
"Her last match that she played, the one that she lost which got her out of the tournament, was probably some of the best tennis I've ever seen her play overall," Welch said. "It was the kind of tennis I always want her to play. Sometimes she gets in the mode of playing not to lose instead of always playing to win. When she's in that play-to-win mode, she's unbelievable, not that she's not unbelievable anyway, but even more unbelievable."
"By the end of the day, I was upset I lost a double elimination, but I was happy that I at least got a step further than last year," Marjanovic said. "I'm just looking forward to next year. I feel like every match during the season has helped me build toward my confidence and my mental endurance."
Marjanovic also finished with a record of 15-5 in doubles play with teammate Kelly Koester.
Welch said that the team atmosphere is a nice change of pace for Marjanovic, who spends her winters and summers competing individually at tournaments across the Midwest.
"That's why I'm looking forward to college because I know it's a team just like high school," Marjanovic said. "Just the team and the atmosphere, I love it so much."
Although Katarina had a very successful high school season, her mother Marina cautions that Katarina's season is not over, but just beginning.
In fact, the family will spend Thanksgiving in Ann Arbor, Mich., for a tournament Katarina is competing in. Would you expect the Marjanovics to spend the holidays together in any other way?