March 29, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
When he takes the court today at No. 20 North Carolina, the Dusan Miljevic will hardly be the same guy who arrived at Georgia Tech nearly four years ago from Serbia. Shoot, it might not be the same fella that began the season using his name.
Something’s happened to Miljevic, who has won three straight matches since moving up to No. 3 singles for the Yellow Jackets.
That he’s grown up shouldn’t come as a surprise; that’s much of what college is all about. Yet for his maturity away from the game to carry into it . . . that’s not always predictable.
He’s owning his reality now like never before. Miljevic knows the end of his tennis career is near, and he’s taking something of a what-have-I-got-to-lose approach. The result? Miljevic has sort of freed himself from himself.
This is a young man no longer chained to the tension manufactured by . . . Miljevic.
“That’s definitely true. I feel like I had more pressure my first year than my last year. I’m a senior. I have just one month of tennis left, and I just go and do my best every time,” he said. “Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win, but in the end you gave it your all and there’s nothing to look back at and say, ‘Oh, I wish I did better.’
“I’m getting more opportunities to play this year. As the season has gone on, I’m playing better and better, getting more confident.”
The numbers don’t add up here. Miljevic is 10-13 this school year, including 6-7 in the spring. His career record stands at 45-33 at Tech and up until a few weeks ago, he was 3-7 in the spring at No. 4.
Then, coach Kenny Thorne moved him to No. 3, and switched freshman Juan Melian from No. 3 (where he was 5-4) to No. 4. Thorne sensed that Miljevic would benefit from a reward of sorts, acknowledgment that he’s put in earnest work and prepared effectively.
It’s all been about assessing and adjusting, which Miljevic knows plenty about.
He took a year off from school before coming to Tech, and to a new world.
For a while, the big picture was fuzzy in the U.S. Eventually, the Serbian’s mission became more clear even if the means to achieve it were sometimes not properly utilized.
“I think probably after my second year. When you come here and you’re on your own, away from your parents . . . in a different country, friends, everything is different,” he recalled. “You have to know how to blend in, how to go with classes and tennis at the same time. That’s really big part of it, and you have to not just do it but perform.
“I think that as you become a senior the most important thing you learn is to distinguish between what’s important and what’s not, you learn what to focus on. That’s one thing that Georgia Tech really teaches you, to focus on time management.”
That’s been a layered process that goes beyond school and tennis and into every corner of Miljevic’s life.
The civil engineering major may not have meant to be funny, but humor was found when he was asked for examples of his personal growth.
“You learn what to stress about, what not to, how to put priorities in order. I think that being at Georgia Tech has made me a better person because I think that you look at all the aspects of not just problems but life,” he explained. “You learn first in your classes.
“You have to learn what to study, not to waste a bunch of time on the stupid definitions or stuff that doesn’t matter. Tennis-wise, you learn that it’s important to prepare for practice separately from practice itself. With friends, I think it’s very important to distinguish not to waste energy on stupid things, worry about stupid things.
“Here, you don’t have time to do everything you want. It’s sounds bad if you say it’s time management with friends, but it’s true. You have to know when can you meet with this person, you have to know if this guy talks a lot, you have to know you need more time.”
Miljevic, who will also join the Jackets in a Sunday match at No. 6 Duke, will not have much time for hanging out this summer. He’s landed a civil engineering internship this summer with an Atlanta-based firm that is building a hospital in Columbus.
He should graduate in December. Then, tennis will become a hobby.
“I have a huge interest in my industry; I really enjoy what I’m doing and what I’m studying,” Miljevic said. “I’ve had a great experience at Georgia Tech, and I’ve learned every year. I realize [now] why I am here and how it has prepared me for a future.
“I can’t wait to see what’s next. Georgia Tech teaches you a certain way to think, to solve problems. You definitely go through a lot of adversity here, and if you want to survive and go to the next level you have to make sure you know how to get through those problems.”
Well said, Dusan.
Comments to email@example.com.