Hadzic doing it her way
The top seed in the Optus 18s Australian Championships, Azra Hadzic is a Melbourne teenager determined to make it her way she tells James Bett.
Azra Hadzic is not your average teenager. Currently ranked 440 in the world, this 18-year-old right-hander from Dandenong in Melbourne’s suburbs is studying Year 12 over two years as she chases her tennis dreams.
Having defeated second seed Storm Sanders (WA) in the quarterfinals of the Optus 18s Australian Championships today, the top seed moves into her second successive semifinal appearance at this event full of confidence.
She admits that early on in the tournament, her confidence wasn’t quite as high.
“I started in the round robin not so confident and losing my first round but as matches went on I gained my confidence and I’m really happy with how I played today, Storm is such a tough player and I’m really happy to get through”
“I was really expecting a tough match today and grinding rallies and just an overall brawl and it wasn’t shown in the score but it was really close and the points were really long so I’m wrapped to get through”
Hadzic’s mother and father migrated from Bosnia but Hadzic was born here. “I was born in Australia, I’m an Australian and I was brought up the Aussie way.”
Like most, her tennis dream started locally, at the grassroots level, but from there her talent was identified and she quickly progressed through the ranks. “Growing up I was always training at Dandenong Tennis Club, and then progressed to the Tennis Academy.”
Now she works on her own, refining her game as she makes her bid to make it to the level of her heroes, Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – all of whom she admires for different qualities.
“I love Roger for his tennis and Rafa for his determination, and Serena for her sheer power and aggression.”
She sees her strengths as her determination and power, which unsurprisingly are the hallmarks of her three heroes.
“I’d say my determination and my fighting spirit [are my strengths]. I don’t really give up. I really try to put as much power into it and hit more aggressive shots, today was a really powerful game, which I have been working on.”
While her admiration for those three is evident, she is intent on creating her own style. “I don’t really like to copy people, I aspire to people but I don’t model my game on them. I think everyone grows up to be their own and that’s what I believe in.”
She ranks her experiences at the Australian Open Junior Championships among the highlights of her career to date, which gave her a taste for the aura surrounding Grand Slam tournaments.
“Playing Australian Open juniors a few years ago was a big one because the atmosphere was amazing and all the support that you get was really great.”
What is most striking about Azra is her hunger for success, something that came across strongly when she spoke about her aims for the upcoming season. “I’ve got a lot [of targets], just looking to go into every tournament and do the best that I can, I just aim to do really well.”
Balancing her study is something that she finds tough at times, particularly with the travel and strenuous mental and physical toll playing tennis at the elite level has. She said that doing year 12 over two years has taken a load off her shoulders.
“It’s much easier doing it part time with only two subjects per year, it gets tough at times but you’ve just got to work through it.”
With tennis and study combined, Azra has little time to do much else, which she realises is all part and parcel of the sacrifices that have to be made to make it to the top.
“Not really being at home all the time is tough and travelling all the time, not being able to go out with friends and things like that you have to limit because I’m always playing in tournaments and it’s really hard to say to people I can’t do this I’ve got tennis.”
Hadzic is a young player in a hurry, and one thing is certain, she will do everything she can to make her tennis dreams a reality.
You can check updated results, draws and the order of play here.