From Serbia to Knoxville

Feb. 24, 2011

Editor's Note: With a doubles victory with John-Patrick Smith on Monday, senior Boris Conkic became the fourth Volunteer in program history to reach 100 career wins in both singles and doubles. He joined Smith and 1980s stars, Byron Talbot and Shelby Cannon, in that exclusive category. Conkic has a team-best 14-1 record in singles this spring since returning to the lineup after taking the fall semester off. Below is a story that appears in the 2011 media guide.

By Andrew Lentz

At some point, most people experience a moment during their adolescence when it hits them. "Maybe my parents just might know what they're talking about."

It doesn't necessarily play out that way for everyone but for Boris Conkic, the realization came when he was 15 or 16. Conkic traveled from his hometown of Novi Sad, Serbia, to attend a tennis camp and play in tournaments in Italy. When the level of coaching he received didn't match the tennis advice his father had given to him throughout his entire life, Conkic "grew up a little bit."

"I felt that the advice I received and my experience in Italy didn't really help me," Conkic said. "When I analyzed the whole month of practicing in Italy, I realized my dad's advice has really helped me. That was the advice that was making me a better tennis player."

His father, Milan, owns a tennis club and coaches the sport in Serbia. However, as anyone who has ever been coached by their father can attest, it's a different relationship on the court.

"It was mostly when we would step on the court, he would give me advice that was going to help my tennis game but we wouldn't be family on the court," the younger Conkic said. "It was very professional for both sides. We didn't have a family relationship on the court.

"Sometimes I was very stubborn when he would give me advice and I wouldn't listen to him but that was mostly when I was young. My attitude toward my dad and my coach changed when I grew up a little bit and we got along together."



While his game certainly improved from the instruction of his dad, Conkic didn't heed every bit of advice given to him, luckily for Tennessee.

"Actually, my dad kind of wanted me to play professionally," Conkic said. "I felt the need to educate myself and I was the one that started all the processes of getting to the states and getting into college. I wanted to come to college and be part of a team."

As the results justify, he's been well-coached since playing the game of tennis from age three. A three-time All-SEC honoree, Conkic became just the fourth player in program history to collect 100 wins in both singles and doubles play while playing at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. That added to an already sterling personal resume, which includes a 2010 SEC Indoors championship and a 2009 ITA All-America doubles title with fellow senior John-Patrick Smith.

Though Conkic was virtually born on a tennis court -- both his parents were national champions in old Yugoslavia -- he was never forced to play. In fact, at age 11, the sport management major picked up soccer but didn't like the team aspect of it.

"I was a decision-maker," Conkic said. "It was all up to me. I did not have to worry about my teammates screwing anything up and things like that. I was responsible for my acts and for my game."

Now, however, Conkic embraces the team-first mentality as a part of the Tennessee tennis program.

"I think I changed a lot in the last few years," Conkic said. "Now, I'm all about the team aspect of it. The last three or four years have been the best of my life, and I think it's because I've been a part of a team and a great group of people. It helped me in different areas of my life."

Much like his father passed on his knowledge to him for much of his life, Conkic does the same for his coaches and teammates, almost like an extra coach on the court. "I analyze my opponents' game," Conkic said. "I analyze my teammates' game and in that way, I'm trying to help them improve and help the coaches. I give them some suggestions on what they should work on when they coach us. I'm trying to help everyone improve their game."

Like father, like son.

Conkic's Timeline of 100 Singles & 100 Doubles Victories
Conkic finished the ITA National Team Indoor Championships with a 100-29 record in singles and a 100-21 record in doubles. His .775 career winning percentage in singles ranks fifth in UT history. Here is a look at how the senior reached the two historic milestones.

First Singles Win: Oct. 14, 2007. Conkic actually lost his career debut, but the next day, he easily beat Tulsa's Connor Roth 6-2, 6-2.

First Doubles Win: Oct. 19, 2007. Conkic and Matt Brewer defeat Stetson's Stamp and Swanteson 8-3 in the first round of the ITA Southeast Regional Championships.

First Singles Title: Nov. 4, 2007. Conkic wasted no time getting his first career title. He beat UNLV's Luca Barlocchi 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 to capture the singles crown at the UNLV Fall Classic in Los Vegas.

First Dual-Match Wins: Jan. 24, 2008. Conkic got his first singles and doubles dual-match wins on the same day in the Vols' 7-0 victory against Furman. He beat Daniel Knause 6-0, 6-4 at the No. 3 position and also teamed up with Davey Sandgren on court 2 to beat Chvetsov and Rhyne 8-4 in doubles.

Singles Win No. 50: April 3, 2009. In the midst of his first career 12-match winning streak, Conkic beat Alabama's Mathieu Thibaudeau 7-6, 6-4 at the No. 2 position to help the Vols to a 4-1 win.

Doubles Win No. 50: Oct. 9, 2009. On the second day of the ITA All-American Championships, Conkic and John-Patrick Smith beat LSU's Carlsson and Skupski 8-6 in the round of 16 at the ITA All-American Championships, the first of the proverbial three annual "grand slams" of college tennis.

First Doubles Title: Oct. 11, 2009. Conkic's first doubles title came on one of college tennis' biggest stages. He and Smith captured the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa by defeating Oklahoma State's Bessonov and Nedovyesov 8-4 in the finals. It was the first tournament Conkic and Smith had ever played together, and the title came after only a handful of practices together. They would not team up again until their senior season.

Singles Win No. 75: Feb. 13, 2010. Conkic helped the Vols to a 4-1 victory over UCLA in the quarterfinals of the ITA National Indoors by beating Holden Seguso 6-2, 6-1 on court 2.

Doubles Win No. 75: March 14, 2010. Conkic and Rhyne Williams, the Vols' strong No. 2 pairing during 2010, beat Kentucky's Gonzalez and Lambropoulos 8-2 in a shutout by Tennessee. Conkic and Williams eventually qualified for the NCAA Doubles Championships and were ranked as high as fourth during the season.

SEC Clincher: April 25, 2010. In what he has described as one of the best moments of his career, Conkic put the exclamation point on the Vols' 4-0 shutout of Florida in the finals of the SEC Championships. After rain forced the match indoors in Lexington, Ky., Conkic delivered a 6-0, 6-2 win against Joey Burkhardt on court 2 to clinch the Vols' first SEC tournament title since 2002.

Singles Win No. 100: Feb. 20, 2011. With a lineup depleted because of illness at the National Indoors, Conkic provided stability in the lower half of the lineup. He beat Fred Saba 6-1, 6-1 to help the Vols to a 4-2 victory over Duke in the semifinals.

Doubles Win No. 100: Feb. 21, 2011. Conkic and Smith, now solidifying the top of UT's lineup, defeated Virginia's Michael Shabaz and Alex Domijan 8-4.



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