By: Alex Morando, OSU Athletics Communications Student
Dino Marcan had enough college offers to list off the Top 50 best tennis teams in the nation. But there was only one school that stood out for the former 24th-ranked junior player in the world.
“I chose Ohio State because of Ty Tucker,” Marcan, a native of Rijeka, Croatia, said. “I was practicing a lot in Florida at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy when I was 17 and I asked around what colleges were at the top and they all recommended me to Ty. He is well-known in American tennis and is the top coach today.”
One of the most talented international players Marcan made the decision to play for Ohio State head coach Ty Tucker, the 2009 Wilson/ITA National Coach of the Year, and for the past two months, he has already produced impressive results.
Through 18 matches this season, Marcan has compiled a 15-4 overall record in singles, including 11 wins in dual play. In doubles, he has won 18 matches with a 5-1 record at No. 1.
“Dino’s got some of the best hands and feet in the world,” Tucker said. “The guy can move. He’s got 100 ATP points and he won the junior French Open in doubles. They don’t give away ATP points and they don’t give away Grand Slam titles.”
Marcan began playing tennis in Croatia when he was only four-years-old, idolizing former Wimbledon singles champion Goran Ivanišević, a tennis star from his home country.
Ivanišević won the 2001 Wimbledon Championships after making it to the finals in three previous tournaments (1992, ’94 and ’98). The former No. 2 player in the world became the first wild card to win a Grand Slam singles title.
“Tennis was pretty huge when I was a kid there,” Marcan said. “Ivanišević was a legend at that time. He made tennis popular in our country and I enjoyed watching him play. My mom started taking me to a tennis club and I started playing in tournaments when I was around seven-years-old.”
Marcan began developing as a player and it wasn’t long before coaches in the area began to see his talent. When he was 14-years-old, Marcan started high school and moved to the capital, Zagreb, where he started playing international tournaments and his success was seen on the national stage.
Marcan said he realized tennis was in his future after winning the European Team Indoor (Winter Cup) championship with Team Croatia.
“That was the first big result of my career,” Marcan said. “After winning the championship, the Croatian Tennis Federation started to support me and I thought I could do something well with this sport.”
In one of his first tournaments on the ITF Junior Tour, Marcan, after winning four consecutive singles matches, advanced to the final round of the Grawe Junior Cup in Losinj, Croatia, Oct. 8, 2006, as a wildcard.
“I started to become successful pretty fast,” Marcan said. “Tournament after tournament I was playing really well.”
In June of 2008, Marcan won the Epitok Cup, in Budapest, Hungary, after downing the top-ranked juniors’ player in the world, Daniel Berta of Sweden in straight sets 6-3, 6-2.
“You don’t have to know tennis to realize that most of the time, he’s got the best hand and best feet on the court,” Tucker said. “We knew we were getting a player when he was coming in.”
In singles, Marcan has played in each of the four Grand Slam junior tournaments. After participating at the 2008 U.S. Open and Australian Open Junior Championships, he made an impressive run at the Wimbledon Junior Championships, advancing to the quarterfinals of the singles draw.
“I had some of my best matches in some of the biggest tournaments I’ve played in,” Marcan said.
Not only has he shined on the singles side of the tournament, Marcan has had even more success in doubles competition. Parterned with Marin Draganja, also a native of Croatia, the pair won five matches for the 2009 French Open Junior title May 31-June 7, in Paris.
With an impressive juniors’ career under his belt, Marcan made the transition to Ohio State.
“The transition to Columbus was definitely a little difficult for me,” Marcan said. “The whole doubles game is different and it’s not what I used to play. Most of the guys are physically strong in college and the level of tennis kind of surprised me. Guys across the lineup you’re facing can play.”
Tucker said he hasn’t been surprised by the way Marcan has played in the beginning of his collegiate career.
“I see his progression in singles anywhere between No. 1 and No. 3,” Tucker said. “I’ve never seen a guy come in January from Europe that picked up this game so quickly. Usually it takes players anywhere between 10-14 weeks, but Marcan was six weeks in and doing a great job.”
Marcan will continue to develop under the helm of Tucker and said he wants to work on his service game the most. Only in his first season, he has become one of the major parts to the Buckeyes’ success as the team has won its last 10 matches, surging in the middle of year as the second-ranked team in the country.
“I think in the next four or five weeks we will see what he can really do,” Tucker said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Dino yet. When he is 100 percent and is totally acclimated to Ohio State, he’s going to be lights out.”