Written by: Herb Garbutt
Kristina Sanjevic planned on playing mixed doubles for Robert Bateman but when her partner withdrew, she instead signed up for singles play.
Plan B didn’t work out too bad.
Sanjevic played her way into last week’s Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations tennis final at the Rexall Centre in Toronto where she upset the tournament’s top seed in impressive fashion to claim the gold medal.
Her opponent, Richmond Hill’s Katarena Paliivets, 19, brought an impressive resumé to the final. She represented Canada at the Youth Olympics and has played in both the Jr. French Open and Jr. Wimbledon.
Of course, Sanjevic is no slouch. She reached the medal rounds at the 2009 Canada Games and won provincial U16 and U-18 titles in Alberta before moving to Burlington to train at the ACE Academy at Cedar Springs Health, Racquet and Sportsclub.
With both players battling the wind as well as each other — “probably the most difficult conditions I’ve played in,” Sanjevic said — she got the start she needed. Sanjevic broke her opponent’s serve in the opening game.
“That definitely helped get my confidence up,” said Sanjevic, who turned 17 two days after her win.
She would continue her strong play, breaking her opponent three more times to build a commanding 7-0 lead.
“She’s a very strong server,” said Bateman coach Damien Hannaford, “and she’s very accurate placing the ball. She was putting it exactly where she had to and she was hitting a lot of winners. I was amazed how well she played.”
But Paliivets would not go down without a fight, earning a pair of breaks of her own to cut the lead to 7-3.
“I started getting a little excited, thinking about the medal,” Sanjevic said. “Then I started to get a little nervous. I had these little thoughts creep into my head, ‘What will everyone at school think if I choke?’”
Sanjevic need not worry. She would shake off those thoughts, hitting a winner off Paliivets’ serve to close the match and finish off the 8-3 victory.
“It felt really good,” the Grade 11 student said. “I hadn’t played against her before but I remember watching her in big tournaments and hoping I could play like that.”
Training at ACE 40 hours a week, Sanjevic feels she’s on the right path. She met ACE president Pierre Lamarche while playing in a tournament in Burlington. After talking to him, she decided to come to Ontario to play because she would face stiffer competition.
Sanjevic said the move is paying off, especially in her fitness level, which paid dividends in the OFSAA final with the ball moving so much in the wind.
“It was difficult (to move from Edmonton),” she said, “but I think it was worth it.”
So was her move to singles. After receiving a first-round bye, Sanjevic won her first two matches and then beat the eventual bronze medalist, Earl Haig’s Louise Kwong, 8-5 in the semifinals.
To read the original article from Burlington Post, please click here.