On the morning when I call Amer Delic, the former ATP World Tour pro had already worked out at 7 a.m. with a promising young tennis prospect. “He’s going to be a very good college player,” Delic says, stopping short of offering a name. Delic is helping guide this budding player on the path between the sport’s junior ranks and college competition. “I try to guide them away from mistakes I made and steer them in the right direction,” Delic says. “Even playing college tennis is a great accomplishment for a lot of these kids.”
Delic is one to know. He won the 2003 NCAA singles championship while playing at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, a quick jaunt west of Indianapolis. His Illinois squad also took the NCAA team title, with Carmel-based Rajeev Ram nabbing the NCAA doubles title – giving the Illini a rare “triple crown” of sorts in college tennis. Noting that tennis is a rather solitary sport, Delic calls that team victory one of the highlights of his racquet-wielding life.
When the Pearson Ford Open commences at Indianapolis’ Woodstock Club
June 23 through 26, Delic, who will turn 34 a few days later, will go up against some of yesterday and today’s top collegiate players and others seeking pro-caliber match play. He may even face off against Robby Ginepri, defending champion at the Pearson Ford Open. Ginepri, also 33, scored his best-ever result as a 2005 U.S. Open semifinalist, falling to Andre Agassi in five sets. Like Delic, he retired in recent years with some Indy history under his belt – as a 2005 and 2009 singles champion at “the RCAs,” later the Indianapolis Tennis Championships.
That event often provided a lift for top talent, as when Juan Martin del Potro won its 2007 doubles title before defeating Roger Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open finale. It was long known as the RCA Championships, with a serving-since-1988 heritage of attracting the sport’s premier pros, including Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, and Jim Courier.
“The Indianapolis event was rated [by players] the No. 1 ATP event for a bunch of years,” Delic says. “I was very sad to see it leave.” (The ATP World Tour sold that license to an Atlanta event late in 2009 after Indy staged its last event that year.)
Indianapolis certainly provided a springboard for Delic’s pro career. After clinching his NCAA title, he won an ATP Futures-level event in Peoria, Illinois, and was granted entry to the RCA event in Indy. Proving his mettle, he won a round before losing to Paradorn Srichaphan, then No. 9 in the world, who then lost the final to Andy Roddick. In the tangled web of the tennis world, Roddick is one of Delic’s good friends in Austin, where he’s based now.
Delic didn’t discount the energy that friends from Champaign, Indianapolis, and Bloomington’s Indiana University provided him that day in Indy. “I ended up having two match points,” Delic says of his pro debut. “Thought maybe there is a little bit of hope for me out here.”
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He went on to reach the 2007 doubles semifinal round in Indianapolis alongside Justin Gimelstob, and also claimed a batch of ATP Challenger titles. A first knee surgery in 2009 halted Delic’s pro career, in which he reached a high singles ranking of No. 60 in the world. After a 2010 comeback, a second such surgery sidelined him for good in 2014. Even so, he found himself filling in when the Bosnian Davis Cup team he captains for his birth country found itself short a player in 2015. Delic inserted himself in the lineup and won the match, repaired knee and all.
Though he’s now a finance man, working at a firm in Austin and soon building a family, Delic still relishes competition. “Hopefully I still have some of my fans from college days playing out there,” he says of Indy’s impending Pearson event. Calls from John Pearson, owner of the event’s title sponsor, and Mark Miles, the former ATP CEO and current chief of Hulman & Company, the parent organization of the Indianapolis 500, sealed the deal on Delic’s return to the Circle City.
Delic has diverted to primarily playing golf since his ATP days ended. Aside from the Pearson event, he also hopes to slip in a round at Indy’s Crooked Stick course, famously designed by Pete Dye, alongside his pal Anthony Calhoun, WISH-TV’s sports director whose friendship with tennis pros including Delic and Roddick trails back to Indy’s ATP event.
First things first: Delic has matches to play. A singles ringer in the not-so-distant past, he’s carved out a life in which, both on and off the court, he’s got options.
If you go:
2016 Pearson Ford Open
Woodstock Club, 1301 W. 38th Street