A lot has gone into Aleksandar Vukic’s pursuit of becoming the best tennis player he can be. That paid off Monday, when the 27-year-old broke into the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time.
The Australian, who is now World No. 95, accomplished the feat by reaching Saturday’s final at the Oeiras Challenger. One of the big reasons he has reached this point is his ability to compartmentalise the pressure of chasing the milestone.
“I don’t analyse it a crazy amount, but I’m aware of what’s going on, it’s in the back of my head,” Vukic said in a press conference in Oeiras. “But when I’m on court, I try not to think about it. There’s sometimes when you do and sometimes it helps, it can be motivating in a way. Sometimes it can add maybe too much pressure. I try to stay in the moment as much as I can.”
To understand how the Australian reached this point takes revisiting his past. Vukic’s parents, Rad and Lilijana, made a critical decision to flee the Yugoslav War in the 1990s before ‘Aleks’ was born.
“All the males over 18 had to be enrolled in the army, but my dad didn’t want to go and get killed. They were living in Sarajevo [Bosnia] at the time and this was the heart of the war. My brother [Vladimir] and my mom were able to leave,” Vukic told ATPTour.com in 2020. “They would hear bullets outside their home, so it was too dangerous and they were sending all the women and children away. Then my father tried to escape too and made it to the airport.
“There was a plane leaving and he blended in with another family and managed to get out of there. Eventually they got their visas and made it to Australia. They literally came with nothing, like a thousand dollars. It was so tough at first. They struggled to find jobs. Now, they are computer engineers and worked their way up from nothing.”
To this day, Vukic considers his father as the biggest influence in his life, stating, “He would push me the most,” the Australian said. “He was definitely instrumental in my development and is still my biggest supporter.”
Fast forward to this season, when the Aussie has enjoyed a standout run on the Challenger Tour. He’s won 14 of his past 17 Challenger-level matches and has reached at least the final in three of his past four tournaments, including his triumph at this month’s Busan Challenger.
Vukic then made a quick transition from the South Korean hard courts to the Portuguese clay. Despite the surface change, he continued his hot streak en route to a finalist finish at the Oeiras Open 4. Just two days separated Vukic’s triumph in Busan and his first-round match in Oeiras.
A former University of Illinois standout, Vukic will aim to carry his momentum to Roland Garros, where he will attempt to qualify for his second main-draw appearance on the Parisian clay. Vukic defeated Raphael Collignon 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the first round of qualifying and will next face Nicolas Moreno De Alboran.