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The Leader of the Swarm

May 10, 2005

by Melissa Jenkins

Georgia Tech Sports Information

For the past two years, Georgia Tech’s Marko Rajevac has had the luxury of being in the shadow and keeping his tennis game on cruise control. A member of a team which was dominated by upperclassmen in those two years, Rajevac had the pleasure of knowing that most of the matches would never come down to him. His freshman year, he appeared in only 13 singles matches in the spring, posting a 5-8 record at the No. 5 or No. 6 positions. Last season, although he played the entire year at No. 1 doubles, Rajevac competed in only 15 singles matches during the dual season, ending with an 8-7 record at the No. 6 slot.

Now a junior on this year’s team, whose lineup is made up of five freshmen, two sophomores and Rajevac, he has had to quickly learn how to be the leader of a group of young guns.

“The last two years, I felt relieved when the upperclassmen were on the court,” said Rajevac. “First, I wasn’t playing as much as I am right now, so I would play my doubles match and then I would get to sit in the stands and relax and cheer on my team. Second, there were so many older guys on the team that they took the role of leadership on without me having to do much other than show up for practice and go to class.”

“This year I have had to be much more of a leader,” said Rajevac. “For one, I’m playing both singles and doubles and I’ve had to play much higher in the lineup. Also, I’ve had to take the role of being more mature and explaining to the guys how things work here at Tech. It’s been hard, but a lot more enjoyable than my first two seasons because I feel like I’m contributing so much more this year.”

And contribute Rajevac has. After moving up to No. 3 singles this year, Rajevac is first on the team this spring season with 15 wins and has 23 wins on the year, nearly as many wins as he had in his first two years at Tech. On the doubles side, he has paired with David North at No. 1 doubles to post a team-best 15 wins. The two are currently ranked No. 38 in the ITA Rankings and were recently selelcted as alternates in the upcoming NCAA Doubles Tournament.

“There’s no question that from last season at this point til now that Marko has been our most improved player,” said head coach Kenny Thorne, who is 99-66 in seven seasons at Tech. “He’s worked very hard this year to improve the mental and physical sides of his game and it has been fun to see it pay off for him. He’s one of those guys who is a natural leader and he has the ability to motivate guys and lead them in a positive direction. We would not be where we are as a team without him having the year that he’s had and being the leader that he has become.”

Georgia Tech will look to that leadership as they head into postseason action this weekend. Making their fifth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the No. 28 Yellow Jackets (14-9) face off against Vanderbilt (12-11) Saturday at 2 p.m. on the campus of the University of Florida. Should the Jackets win, they would meet the winner of the Florida/UCF match Sunday at 12 p.m. in Gainesville, Fla.

“I am excited about playing this weekend,” said Rajevac. “The last two years our team has lost in the first round, so I would really like to be able to experience winning a first round match. Our team is playing well right now and we match up well against Vanderbilt. It’s going to be a great match and I hope I’m able to contribute as much as I can.”

A management major originally from Yugoslavia, Rajevac feels that everything he’s learned this season will help him later in life.

“I’ve definitely grown up while taking on this new role with the team. I don’t think I could have done this my freshman or sophomore years. It took some learning and some time to get to this point, but I’m comfortable with the role I have right now and know in a few years, I’ll be able to use these skills in a professional business setting.”

For now, though, the men’s tennis team will reap the benefits of having a teammate who enjoys the newfound leadership role he has discovered.

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