After dedicating decades of his life to tennis and refusing to give up his dreams, it was only fair that Matija Pecotic gets his moment in the spotlight. The 34-year-old Croatian was the Cinderella story at the ATP 250 in Delray Beach earlier this year when he entered the draw as an on-site alternate and upset Jack Sock to reach the second round.
“I wasn't practicing like a professional player, should be practicing,” Pecotic told Universal Tennis. “I was living in West Palm Beach. And not always around high-level guys to train with, but I was always training something, whether it was running, playing pro-ams, or hitting with my boss in the mornings before work.”
It’s been a long time coming for Pecotic, who had all but given up his pro dreams for a full-time job as the Director of Capital Markets for a real estate investment company in South Florida. Now he’s juggling his office job, ATP schedule, and UTR Pro Tennis Tour events.
Born in former Yugoslavia, Pecotic’s family relocated to Malta when he was young. Despite not growing up in a tennis-centric country, he would still land a spot at Princeton for his college tennis career, where he excelled, reaching No. 2 in the college rankings.
He’d turn pro in 2013 and achieve his career-high ATP ranking of No. 206 within two years, but a stomach surgery and infection knocked him off his feet. He switched his focus back to school, picking up his a degree from Harvard Business School.
But he wasn’t done with tennis just yet. In 2019, he won five ITF titles, only for Covid to knock the wind out of his sails once again.
This year has been different, as Pecotic has set himself up for a serious go of being a professional player. In Delray Beach, he beat Stefan Kozlov, Tennys Sandgren, and Sock before falling to Marcos Giron. The breakthrough marked his first main-draw win at the ATP level. He followed it up by reaching the final of an ITF for the first time in three years. Remarkably, Pecotic had only entered the Delray on-site alternate list on a whim.
“I live up the road. I said, Delray is coming up, maybe I should go sign in, and that was it,” Pecotic said. “It probably didn't cross my mind until like five days before the tournament that it's even being held. Spontaneous.”
He won the PTT $25K in Boca Raton at the start of July before reaching the final of an ATP Challenger in Ecuador as a qualifier.
The PTT has helped Pecotic establish his winning rhythm and get his competitive spirit back. He actually won the first-ever PTT in his home country of Croatia back in July 2021 and picked up a PTT check of $3,600 when he won in Boca in May last year.
“The greatest preparation for ATP Challengers and ATPs for me is actually playing a PTT, by far,” Pecotic said. “You get four matches guaranteed. It’s high-level players. If you’re ranked around where I am, you know that you’ll get some wins, so it will help with your confidence.
And even if you don't win, you just play a lot of matches. So I would do it again, if I was preparing for some tournaments, I would play a PTT two weeks before getting a bunch of matches, and then go from there.”