Freshmen Ivan Turudic and Nikola Kocovic come from two different worlds.
One is a former National Junior champion in Croatia, while the other was named an All-American as a high-school senior playing most of his tennis in southern New Jersey.
What they do have in common, however, is their role in the Penn tennis team’s hot start to the spring season.
The Quakers (6-0) have trounced nonconference competition thus far — losing only seven points out of a total 42 — thanks largely in part to strong play from these two freshmen who, from all standpoints, have exceeded expectations.
“Right now, they’re really proving themselves,” coach Nik DeVore said. “It’s not easy to come in as freshmen and step in the lineup right away, so we’re happy about that.”
Both rookies acknowledged that the fall semester was difficult in some ways as they were trying to adjust to college life, the faster hard courts and the team as a whole. But based on their play so far this semester, it looks like they are ready to fully utilize their talents.
Turudic — who has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the European junior rankings — has played all of his matches this season at either the No. 1 or 2 singles spots and has gone undefeated in those contests.
Kocovic has been impressive in his own right, as he has dropped only eight games in his four wins this season, most of which have been played at No. 4 or 5 singles.
“We are both in the lineup, No. 2 and 4, so I feel we do contribute to the team,” Turudic said.
“We’re both playing well in doubles and in singles, and I think that’ll be important as we move on,” Kocovic added.
Penn will need the two freshmen to continue playing at a high level especially as they prepare for a matchup against Navy that is expected to be challenging for the Quakers.
The Midshipmen (7-3) began their season hot as well, winning seven out of their first eight matches. However, they have now lost their last two and have yet to win a match away from home — a trend that the Red and Blue will hope to capitalize on Wednesday afternoon.
The Quakers have matched up with the Midshipmen for at least the past seven seasons and won last season, 4-3.
“Fortunately, we have a lot of upperclassmen that know what it’s like to play Navy,” DeVore said.
But that doesn’t mean that the upperclassmen are expecting an easy victory.
“They’re teaching the younger guys, saying, ‘You have to defend your turf or otherwise Navy will take it away from you,’” DeVore said.
However, the Quakers may not have to worry too much about their precocious freshmen, who appear to be prepared for all circumstances.
“I played a lot of big matches against tough opponents in front of big crowds, so I know how to handle the pressure, and I can pull it out in important matches,” Turudic said.
“I think we’ll prepare the same way we’ve been preparing for all of the matches,” added Kocovic. “And hopefully we’ll play well.”
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