Player interview: Deni Zmak, Embry Riddle

ITA Player Profile: Deni Zmak, Embry Riddle

Deni Zmak of Embry-Riddle (NAIA) had a huge fall season in 2013, winning both singles and doubles at the 2013 USTA/ITA National Small College Championships. The wins qualified him for the 2013 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships and he competed well against Division I singles players Andrew Harris of Oklahoma and Marcos Giron of UCLA, losing in three sets in both matches. He and partner Simon Felix beat UCLA's Marcos Giron and McKenzie McDonald (who were ranked in the ITA Division I Top 10 in January 2014) to make the second round of the national indoors, and the ITA spoke to Deni about his comeback to tennis after a motorcycle accident, and how he got into the game.


What’s been your favorite or funniest moment in your college career so far?
Winning the team national championship for sure, and I also clinched, which was amazing, just an amazing feeling to lead the team to victory.  I was lucky actually to be the last one on the court, it felt so good afterwards.

How long have you been playing tennis, how old were you when you started playing?
I started when I was five and a half, so very early.  But I didn’t [lay for three years after my accident, so I restarted playing tennis, last summer, about a year and a half ago, but other than that I was playing all the time.

It’s pretty remarkable that you’re here in singles and doubles, and you did have a very long break because of your accident.
It’s much more than I expected.  I didn’t expect that I would be able to play tennis again on that level.  First I was unable to play for three years, and the doctors said that I would maybe not be able to play at all.  And then I played with my left hand actually, I played some amateur tournaments with my left, and I won it.   It was fun, that was fun, but after a while I didn’t find it challenging, and you it was like, ok I cannot improve more than this and was like ok I have to go back playing with my right arm. So I started slowly, and now here I am.

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, or Murray, who is your favorite?
I would go with Djokovic, because I am Croatian and he is Serbian.

What’s your favorite shot on the court?
Well, I kind of need my serve when I am playing, but I like to play half-volleys and drop shots, and sometimes between the legs. But I’ll stick with the serve.

If you could play tennis against anyone in history, who would it be?
That’s a tough one. When I started watching tennis it was the era of Sampras and Agassi, and I didn’t watch before that.  I played against Ivanisevic, so I could say Ivanisevic, but I will say Sampras.

(Tom) How did the match against Ivanisevic go?
Well played doubles, and yeah we lost.  My first doubles match after I started playing tennis with my right hand again it was against Ivanisevic.  I was like ok this is like another world, because I was just not ready to play and then you play against Ivanisevic who has an amazing serve and volleys, and I was like ok, I have to work a lot.

What you’re not on the court what are some of your hobbies, what do you enjoy doing?
Practicing.  I would also say riding a bike, which is not happening anymore.  So, yeah just hanging out with my friends, and usually it’s homework now, because of practice, classes, and homework so there is not much free time.

What’s your favorite movie of all time
It’s hard to say, but lately I like Science Fiction.

When is the last time that you screamed at the TV?
I don’t actually watch TV that much, but probably when I was watching the Croatian soccer team playing the world championship.

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