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Rallying for the Future

By: Stefan Dostanic

Growing up in Southern California, I was always playing sports – whether it was soccer, basketball, or tennis. However, once high school came around, I felt that I had to pick one sport to focus on, and that sport was tennis. My sister played in high school and my parents play recreationally, but it was never big in my family. Branching out on my own path was fitting for the game. It’s something I’ve done, and continue to do, throughout my playing career. The individuality of the sport spoke to me, because, unlike team sports, every victory or defeat was just mine. The self-reliance and individual accountability resonated deeply with me.

Now, as I prepare for what is the biggest challenge yet, I look back at my time as a Trojan knowing that those critical lessons will continue to be my rallying point as I pursue a professional playing career.

Becoming a college athlete was always part of my plan, offering a chance to hone my skills on the court and pursue my ultimate goal of turning pro while earning a degree that would prepare me for life beyond sports. I wanted to stay close to home, and USC won me over with its perfect blend of top-tier athletics and academics. Their men’s tennis program, renowned for its history of excellence and incredible coaching, promised the best environment for me to grow as both an athlete and a student.

The college team experience, nestled within an individual sport, offered a unique camaraderie and competitive spirit that you can’t get anywhere else. My five years at USC were full of extraordinary highs and the lowest of lows. 

My freshman year we were the top-ranked team in the country and won the Indoor National Championship. In my junior year, I achieved the number one individual ranking. Beyond the accolades and victories, college taught me invaluable off-court lessons, like navigating different personalities, leading a team, and overcoming adversity.

The biggest challenge I faced in college was learning humility. Coming in as a top recruit, I had high expectations for immediate success. But reality required me to earn my place and respect within the team. I battled multiple injuries throughout my time here, including two that cut my final season short. Despite all of this, I earned the honor of being a team captain for my final three seasons. Collegiate tennis was a humbling journey, one that taught me to work collaboratively with my teammates and to understand and fulfill my role. Being a team captain imparted lessons in leadership and collaboration with diverse personalities — skills that will continue to serve me well as I continue my tennis journey. 

An opportunity to turn professional before I graduated presented itself, and I know many would have jumped at the chance, but I chose to stay at USC for a fifth year. I had unfinished business on the court and in the classroom. Finishing my degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) was important to me, and I knew that the environment and resources at USC would further refine my game and better prepare me for the next phase of my life. When I walked at graduation, it was an even better feeling than I expected.

As I embark on my professional career, I find myself starting all over again in a way, much like when I was a freshman, with a lot to learn: finding my rhythm, establishing new training routines and adapting to heightened travel and scheduling demands. Becoming a professional tennis player is no easy task, but my journey has never been easy. Looking back on my college career, I am proud of my achievements despite the obstacles, having built invaluable connections and gained immense knowledge. Moving forward, I am supported by friends, mentors and former USC players who offer guidance and encouragement. Much like a long rally, the road ahead will be both exciting and challenging, but I’m ready for it. My strong love for tennis keeps me in the point, propelling me toward my dreams.


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