Started from the bottom, Strahinja Rakic, a senior member of the Mississippi State University men’s tennis team from Belgrade, Serbia, will now go down in the history books as being on the winningest doubles team in MSU’s history.
Rakic started playing tennis at age 7 after shagging balls for his older brother’s tennis practices. From there, he started playing tournaments and eventually advanced to the national level and onto professional tournaments around Europe.
“I got some good results and coach Roberts texted me and started recruiting me. I never actually thought of college before until he texted me and I decided to consider it,” Rakic said. “My parents and I decided to give it a shot and get an education and tennis all together, because that was my goal—to finish university and to also keep playing tennis.”
Joining MSU’s tennis team was one of the best decisions Rakic has made, he said.
“Tennis is an individual sport, so it’s kind of weird playing tennis and being on a team, and I think our biggest thing is that we’re like family," Rakic said. "Everybody here, not just tennis, not just our team, it’s all sports—we’re all close to each other and I enjoy the time here, and I think it’s one of the best decisions of my life to come here.”
Rakic’s success has continued at the college level, and he said the team winning last year’s SEC Championship was his proudest moment playing tennis.
“Winning the SEC Championship last year with the guys," Rakic said, "it was unbelievable and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier about my tennis than that time.”
Rakic and doubles partner Nuno Borges were instrumental in the victory, winning their match against Texas A&M’s nationally fourth-ranked Aguilar and Arconada, helping the Bulldogs clinch the all-important doubles point.
As MSU’s winningest doubles pair in program history, Rakic said his and Borges’ success comes from having a good relationship on and off the court, which is why they have found so much success in doubles.
“We’re friends off the court, we live together. Since we started here, we’ve been very close; we like each other, we enjoy spending time with each other," Rakic said. "I think that’s something you also need to be successful as a team, you need to be able to understand each other and play similar tennis as well."
Rakic said Borges is an incredible teammate with a lot of potential.
“I can’t say enough words about Nuno," Rakic said. "He’s unbelievable for us, even in singles, and I think he’s going to be an unbelievable professional tennis player after college.”
Borges feels the same about Rakic, which is just more evidence of the great relationship that has led to such unprecedented success on the court.
“I think he’s a great player, a great guy, a great friend,” Borges said.
Borges said he and Rakic lift each other up and have been playing together for so long that sometimes they do not even need to call the plays, they just intuitively know what is going on.
“Sometimes when I don’t feel the greatest, he’s there to give me a few balls and stay us in the game sometimes; and that’s what we do for each other,” Borges said. "I do the same for him, and we try to push each other. We’ve known each other for a while, we’ve been playing together for a while too, so that’s great chemistry.”
Rakic said he is still considering his plans for after college, but hopes to at least play doubles professionally.