© Paun Paunovic
Mario Ancic has enjoyed an outstanding tennis career by finishing in the Top 10, helping his country to the Davis Cup title, reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon and winning three career ATP titles.
But the 24-year-old Croat's proudest moment off-court came Monday in his hometown of Split where he officially became a graduate of the Law School of the University of Split.
On Sunday, after leading his country to a 3-2 Davis Cup victory over Italy by winning the fifth and decisive rubber, Ancic drove four hours back home to get ready for his "huge day" on Monday.
In front of a crowd of 300 people, that included students and professors in the Law program, members of the Croatian Olympic Committee, Administer of Sport, family and friends, Ancic gave his 45-minute thesis on "ATP Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," describing the legal foundation and organization of the ATP Tour. Afterwards, Ancic took questions from professors and students.
"When I was going to high school with childhood friends I was always good in school and I wanted to see if I could do it," said Ancic, who began the law program at the end of 2002. "It was a lot of work and I always wanted to play tennis but this is why I decided to continue and it was a huge day for me yesterday."
"Obviously it's not easy to compare (to tennis) but these will be memories I will cherish for the rest of my life."
When Ancic was sidelined last year for nearly six months due to illness and injury, he became an everyday student and said, "It wasn't good for my tennis not playing but I had something to focus on while I was out. This was good and I used my time well. I was spending a lot of time there and it was normal life for a 23-year-old not playing tennis."
Ancic says education has always been stressed in his family. Older brother, Ivica, who played pro tennis briefly, earned a degree in economics, and younger sister, Sanja, who was a Top 10 junior in the world, is studying pharmacy in Zagreb.
"It shows the part of our family, the sport is big for us, but we always try to do both," said Ancic. "It is so important and last year I had a lot of problems, and one day, it shows you what will you do when you're not going to be playing tennis? You never know what could happen the next day. It's something that's going to stay with me for my lifetime."
Ancic wrote his 68-page thesis in Croatian and he plans to get it translated in English and wants to give it to whoever is interested in reading it. "I want to thank Etienne (de Villiers) for helping with this and everybody with the ATP for their time."
When asked what he will do with his Law degree, Ancic said, "It's something that can open many doors after my tennis career and I hope to play eight to 10 more years. I would like to put together the sport and law that I like much and hopefully help the interests of the players."
The university's graduation ceremony is next month at a date to be announced, and Ancic said if he is in the middle of a tournament, he knows the one place he will be. "Wherever I am, that one day I will be there for sure in my cap and gown."
Mario Ancic Player Profile