Serbia has given the world some of the best tennis players. From the redoubtable Novak Djokovic to Jelena Janković, Ana Ivanovic etc, this small sized country has seen series of world class players coming out of the Serbian system.
Something surely is right about the Serbian coaching system. Be it a coincidence or otherwise, Harvest Tennis Academy has placed a lot of faith on Serbian coaches.
Harvest Tennis Academy which has arguably the biggest tennis facility in India has recently inducted Strahinja Jovanovic from Serbia as the head coach who has replaced his countryman, Milos Pavlovic.
In a free wheeling chat with Strahinja, he discusses the way forward for Indian tennis and his concrete plans of moving his players to the next level from his academy.
Q: So how has been your experience in India so far? Also is this your first stint in India?
Strahinja Jovanovic: India makes a deep impression on me even after 5 months of staying and working here. People are very open and communicative and they certainly make a good impression. It is my first time in India and I believe that I will stay in this country for a very long time.
Q: Harvest Tennis Academy seems to love the Serbians. Milos Pavlovic who was before you was also from Serbia. Also now you have your fellow Serbians who are in your team. It must me to do with the great Serbian system of bringing world class players in the world of tennis?
Strahinja Jovanovic: I think it is a coincidence that the previous head coach was also from Serbia but Serbia is certainly listed very well in the tennis world. We have a lot of top players for such a small country. The development of tennis in Serbia is at a high level, but now there are five of us from Serbia and we have brought knowledge and experience to your country, which is reflected in the excellent results of our players at Harvest Academy after only 5 months.
Q: Harvest Tennis Academy is supposed to have the biggest tennis facility in India. Would you consider the facilities to be world class? Kindly take us through the system there?
Strahinja Jovanovic: Well, Harvest Tennis Academy has great infrastructure.
That’s right, Harvest has the largest facility in India. This is something difficult to find in Western countries. Everything is high-end and professional and we can certainly compete with the best tennis academies in the world.
Having worked in Germany in one of the best academies, I brought that system here and the results are visible after a few months of working with the Indian players. The latest research methodologies are implemented in the daily schedule.
At Harvest Academy we have a number of different levels and groups, each group has a daily work plan for the morning and afternoon, each trainer has a copy of the training plan. In addition, we do Speed On training twice a week, which only a few of the world’s most famous coaches practice and understand. We do it at Harvest once a week in the Media Room and we have mental and tactical training. We record player matches and analyse them.
We also have two types of surfaces, clay and acrylic, a recovery pool, a modern gym and more. We have a physical therapy clinic where we test players and assess the most accurate information and body condition of each player and therefore make a personal prehab/rehab plan for each player, thereby eliminating the possibility of injury. It is best for players to come to us and see the difference because the work plan and program is world-class, the entire academy has been renovated and we are the only one in India to offer professional training together with school at Harvest International School.
Q: What is your short term and long term vision at the academy?
Strahinja Jovanovic: I think we will reach the short-term goal very soon and that is to be the best tennis academy in India. The long-term goal is to be the best academy in Asia.
Five months ago we had only one ITF junior player and now 4 more players have ITF Junior rank.
Our goal for the next year is to have between 15 and 20. Imagine how well training can be done when you have such good players? So I think we are on good way. As for the pros, we have several ATP players that we expect to make a huge jump on the ATP ranking over the next year as they work hard every day and will certainly reach their individual potential.
Q: Harvest has produced good players like Suraj Prabodh and Dalwinder Singh and who are trying hard to make the next jump. How do you plan things for guys like them?
Strahinja Jovanovic: Next year you will hear more about them. They prepare ruthlessly and from next year we will aim at top-level professional tennis, they have great potential, but they need time to adjust to our new methods of training, they are on the right track and we certainly expect a lot from them in the future.
Q: We have seen guys sweating it out on the practice court. But what is your definition of a perfect practice that makes the difference?
Strahinja Jovanovic: For me, perfect practice is really deep practice. We all know that there are 4 segments in tennis: technical-tactical (these two are connected, one cannot go without the other), physical and mental.
On the mental level, I realized that not much is being done in India, and this is a very important segment that we put a lot of emphasis on. One can reach a certain level by sweating, but to reach a much higher level it takes mental training. We at Harvest develop all 4 segments in our players, through a Holistic approach.
Q: You are from a small sized country who has given the best of tennis players to this world. What are the top things that we as a country have to do to attain the same results in the coming years?
Strahinja Jovanovic: Coach education, education system and continuous learning. Tennis is a science and thus it should be approached like a science. Tennis culture in India is certainly not traditional, but this is definitely the right way to develop tennis in India, bringing in coaches from other countries. Likewise, organizing more ITF Junior Tournaments is something India lacks, as well as ITF Pro Circuit tournaments for men and women, such a large country with so many players needs more such events.
Q: Tennis has evolved to be a sport which is so much played in the mind too. So what special techniques do you use with your players to raise their mental game apart from tennis skill set?
Strahinja Jovanovic: As I previously stated, we have weekly mental trainings where we do secrets of the champions, preparation for the match, habits, visualization, breathing techniques, dealing with pressure, emotional stability and much more.
Q: When you see our Indian kids how do you compare them with the Serbian kids in general? What are things they are strong in and what are the things that they need to work on?
Strahinja Jovanovic: I do not see much difference between players in your country and players from Serbia.
The only thing I have realized here is the lack of information and knowledge about professional tennis in the fields of technique, tactics, physical training, mental training and more.
Q: Now tell us about your stay in India? What are the best things that you love about India? How do you spend your free time?