Matko Maravic isn’t as quick as his opponents.
His serve isn’t as fast.
And his volley isn’t as strong.
But everyone who talks about the senior captain mentions the intangibles – fiery intensity, unwavering pride, and especially cerebral adjustments.
“Most of the players he plays against at No. 1 singles have better skills than him,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “But he’s smart. It’s not uncommon for him to switch back and forth between serving or volleying and standing well behind the baseline and playing total defense, wearing somebody out.”
Maravic agrees: “I don’t always have the skills of other players out there. But one of the things I’ve learned is just being able to adjust to my opponents and make the shots they are most uncomfortable with.”
But before Maravic learned how to take his opponents out of their comfort level, he had to learn how to make himself comfortable on the hard court.
During his childhood in Europe, Maravic played on clay courts, where he was used to sliding on the surface. It wasn’t until his first high school match in the United States on an exchange program that he played on hard court.
He had to change his entire game.
After returning to Croatia, knowing that many of his new American friends were headed to Ann Arbor, he applied to the University strictly in hopes of receiving a good education.
Once accepted, attending Michigan became an opportunity he couldn’t turn down – a chance to learn a new language and culture and continue playing tennis.
But with this opportunity came challenges for Maravic that tested his ability to once again adjust. At times, he struggled to balance tennis and the rigorous grind of the Stephen Ross School of Business.
“There have been many occasions in the past in practice where I can tell he’s been very sleep-deprived,” Berque said. “He just wants to do well at everything he does so badly that sometimes he gets worn down when it gets to a busy time in school. This year, he’s matured and is now at a really good point mentally by managing his stress level.”
Said Maravic: “I just enjoy being in the Tennis Center and checking out all the banners of the people that went through the program who did amazing things. It has driven me to work hard, especially senior year, because I want to leave a good legacy.”
Berque believes Maravic has already achieved that. Then again, Berque has a particularly special spot for Maravic in his heart.
Maravic is the only player who has been at Michigan for all of Berque’s four years at the helm, giving Berque the chance to observe his maturation.
“To be honest, when I first watched him practice, I thought he was okay,” Berque said. “But I had no idea that this would turn out to be one of the most successful players at Michigan in a decade and one of the only All Americans.”