Sophomore David Micevski has been playing tennis since he was five years old, and it shows.
“My dad was playing recreationally, he took me to watch him when he played a friend, and I started liking the game from the first moment, and I told him that I wanted to play tennis,” Micevski said. “He took me to the club the next time and spoke to the coaches, and that’s how my whole tennis thing started.”
As he practiced, grew older and began playing better, Micevski — a native of Skopje, Macedonia — shot to the top of the rankings in his home country. As a junior player, Micevski captured seven Macedonian junior national championships.
“Being the best player every year is not an easy thing to achieve, because in every tournament the pressure is on your shoulders, because you’re expected to win the tournament,” Micevski said.
Pressure doesn’t seem to faze Micevski. With college coaches — including Utah men’s tennis head coach Roeland Brateanu — watching, Micevski toppled Domagoj Bilijexko of Croatia, ranked No. 62 at the world at the time, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 in the first round of the 2014 European Junior Championships.
“He won a round, and played a guy, [Jaume Munar], who lost in the finals of the junior French Open, and he played a really close match with him, and I was really impressed,” Brateanu said. “I got in touch with him through social media, and visited him, and was able to convince him to come.”
Brateanu knew from the first time that he saw Micevski’s game that he was an elite player.
“I was obviously very impressed with his game,” Brateanu said. “He was a very strong forehand, and he’s a good athlete. But most importantly, he’s a very, very tough competitor, and I think that was the one thing that stuck out.”
Micevski hails from a country of approximately two million people, so it took some adjustment to feel comfortable in the U.S., but Micevski eventually settled in.
“The facilities in [Macedonia] are not even close to the facilities here [at the U], Micevski said. “[In Macedonia] there are not very many coaches that can improve your game, [and] there are not many players you can practice with.”
Micevski arrived in Utah in January, just in time for the start of the 2016 season.
“Due to some factors, [Micevski] ended up coming in January, so we didn’t have the fall to prepare with him,” Brateanu said. “It’s always a tough thing to come in midway through a year. You already have a group of guys that have worked hard and have been through things together, so he had a little bit of a disadvantage and had to kind of prove himself to the guys.”
And prove himself he did.
Micevski’s first regular season collegiate match came in January 2016, when Micevski defeated Vasco Valverde of the University of San Francisco, 7-6 (4), 6-4. Micevski would not lose until eleven matches later. Micevski’s favorite match from last season was when he defeated Stanford’s David Wilczynski, ranked #56 in college tennis, 6-3, 6-3.
“He did an unbelievable job in his first year to come out and win at number two and three in the lineup, not only in region, but also in the Pac-12,” Brateanu said. “He was very impressive.”
To get to the level of play that he is at today, Micevski needed some help adjusting to the college game.
“Back home, we play mostly on clay courts, and since I came here to play on hard courts, it’s not an easy transition,” Micevski said.
Clay courts offer a slower pace than the frenzied action of the hard courts, and Micevski had to get used to that, which he did. However, there are still plenty of things left for him to work on.
“The one thing that he’s improved, and that he still needs to continue to improve, is his understanding of the game,” Brateanu said. “Understanding what he needs to do to beat the other guy across the net. Right now he did a good job of executing what we asked him to do, and the next step for him will be to learn that so that he can do that on his own, so he can start seeing strengths and weaknesses of his opponent better.”
Micevski is back for his sophomore season, and he has one goal in mind.
“The main goal for this season is to make the NCAA [tournament], that’s our team goal and it’s my goal, too.”