SCHMIDT: Medan miles away, yet right at home

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EricSchmidtWhen Dusan Medan played Novak Djokovic a few years ago it didn’t go well.

Medan fell to the currently No. 4-ranked tennis player in the world and the future slayer of living legend Roger Federer in straight sets. As far as tennis matches go, it was a bloodbath. But the defeat to a younger and more talented player didn’t get Medan down. In fact, the loss inspired him to work harder and become the best he could be. It worked.

Just last week, Medan put on a performance unlike anything Marquette has seen before. Competing in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American Championships, he played nine matches in seven days, winning eight of them — including three against nationally ranked opponents. He became the first Marquette tennis player ever to reach the main draw at the event.

It was a career weekend for the super-senior, one he hopes will carry over to the rest of the season. It’s amazing to think that just three years ago Medan was playing at Troy University in Middle-Of-Nowhere, Alabama and was completely lost. Literally.

“I didn’t like Troy at all, I was really unhappy,” Medan said. “It was in a really small town. I don’t even know where it was.”

The situation was so dire that Medan considered giving up and heading back home to Nis, Serbia — a place he had tried desperately to leave less than a year earlier by writing e-mails and letters to over 50 American universities.

A friend from Croatia who had played in the Milwaukee Tennis Classic mentioned Marquette to Medan and told him to contact the coach. Medan loved the idea of a big urban city that had a large Serbian population. He was on board.

“Being in the city is a completely different atmosphere,” Medan said. “I thought about going home for good after my experience at Troy, but I ended up really liking Marquette. It all worked out.”

Now it’s three years later and the marriage between Medan and Marquette has been going beautifully. Think Britney Spears and K-Fed, only the exact opposite. The team has improved every year and looks poised for a real breakthrough in Medan’s final season as a Golden Eagle. Whatever happens this year, it’s going to be because of a team effort and not just because Medan is playing out-of-his-mind right now.

“I want to play well individually to help the team,” Medan said. “There are high expectations this year, and I think this is the deepest team we’ve ever had. The goal is to make the NCAA Championships.”

In order to reach the national tourney, Marquette would have to either win the Big East Championships, which the team has never done, or finish the year ranked in the top 30 nationally — something it hasn’t done in a very, very long time. Still, despite the long odds, Medan’s confidence in himself and the team is unflappable.

“I think it’s really realistic for us to get ranked that high this year,” Medan said. “I just have to make sure I lead this team as best as possible and lead by example.”

Medan has come a long way in just a few short years. His journey from small-time dreamer to big city success story is one that any sports fan can appreciate. And now, in the final chapter of his tennis career, he has the chance to cement his legacy as arguably Marquette’s best tennis player ever.

If he accomplishes that feat, it would be the ultimate underdog triumph. Like Cinderella, but with a tennis racket. Except when the clock strikes midnight, Medan’s awards and records won’t disappear.

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