Matija Pecotic’s life unfolds like the pages of a captivating novel—a rich tapestry of cultural experiences woven together by his unique journey. Born in Belgrade, living on the sun-soaked shores of Malta, with Croatian parents, and now embracing his identity as an American, Pecotic’s story is a testament to the richness of cross-cultural immersion. A true immigrant success story. 

“It’s like having a passport filled with stamps from various destinations, each imprinting its unique influence on my outlook on life,” remarked Pecotic. “One might say I’m a cultural chameleon, effortlessly blending into different environments and soaking up the best of each one. I’ve mastered the art of transitioning from burek to pastizzi, seamlessly switching between Croatian and Maltese greetings, and impressing my friends with my ability to flawlessly pronounce “šljivovica” and “ġbejna” in the same breath.”

But beyond the linguistic acrobatics, Pecotic’s multicultural background has bestowed upon him a “profound sense of belonging to the world rather than just a single nation.” His diverse heritage has taught him to view the world from an outsider’s perspective, which, he said, can be “both refreshing and enlightening.”

No matter where we’re from, we all share a common thread of humanity. We laugh, we cry, we dream, and we aspire.

Matija Pecotic

Through the experience of living his life in different cultures, Matija Pecotic embraced the best of myriad identities.

“I’ve become a bit of an anthropologist, observing cultural nuances, traditions, and quirks with an inquisitive eye,” shared Matija Pecotic.

“It’s like being at a never-ending international buffet, where I get to sample a little bit of everything and appreciate the flavors that make each culture unique.”

For Pecotic, it’s not merely about the superficial aspects of culture, like the delectable dishes, diverse languages, and fascinating customs. It’s about delving deeper, exploring the profound connections that lie beneath the surface, the intricate threads that bind societies together.

“I’ve come to realize that no matter where we’re from, we all share a common thread of humanity. We laugh, we cry, we dream, and we aspire. Our stories may be different, but they often converge at the crossroads of the human experience,” he said.

“In a world that sometimes feels divided and fragmented, my background has become a bridge that connects people from various walks of life. It’s a reminder that we are more alike than we are different. It has taught me to embrace diversity, foster understanding, and celebrate the rich tapestry of cultures that make up our global community.”

Pecotic: Tennis taught me discipline, resilience, and perseverance

Pecotic’s fascination with tennis began during his childhood, inspired by his father’s matches with his Balkan comrades in Malta. As a young observer, he watched them play, captivated by the sport’s allure, and soon found himself irresistibly drawn into its magnetic embrace.

Matija Pecotic (Photo Credit: Andrew Patron).
Matija Pecotic (Photo Credit: Andrew Patron).

“I got hooked,” Pecotic confessed, recalling how he took up lessons and quickly fell in love with the game’s electrifying excitement and the sheer thrill of striking the ball. Tennis became more than just a sport—it became a profound teacher, imparting invaluable life lessons.

“Tennis taught me discipline, resilience, and perseverance,” he reflected, acknowledging the transformative impact the sport had on his character. From those early moments of fascination to his present-day endeavors, Pecotic’s journey in tennis has been nothing short of extraordinary.”I’m grateful for the opportunity to discover the beauty and grace of the game,” he revealed. 

Seek mentors, and surround yourself with supportive individuals who can inspire and guide you.

Matija Pecotic

The American chapter of Matija Pecotic’s story began at the prestigious Princeton University, and from there, his trajectory followed the Ivy League path. There, he ascended to unparalleled heights, becoming a three-time Ivy League Player of the Year, and No. 2 in the college tennis rankings.

Reflecting on his time at Princeton, Pecotic described it as an extraordinary journey of self-discovery and intellectual growth—a transformative experience that left an indelible mark on his life. However, his time at Princeton was no ordinary academic pursuit. Pecotic took on the challenge of being a student-athlete, which brought its own set of unique responsibilities and trials.

“Juggling the demands of being the captain and top player of the Princeton tennis team while maintaining a successful academic career and finding time for a vibrant social life felt like a delicate tightrope act,” he said. 

“Yet, I faced the challenge head-on, determined to excel in both realms, oftentimes with the encouragement of my mother. Through sheer determination and unwavering commitment, I discovered the secret to unlocking my potential and finding harmony amidst the chaos. It was a process of trial and error, a delicate dance of time management, discipline, and strategic prioritization”

Princeton, with its formidable academic environment and lofty expectations, appeared tailor-made to push Matija Pecotic to his limits. Yet, within this crucible of challenges, he discovered a wellspring of resilience he never knew he possessed. “The struggle became a catalyst for growth, propelling me to reach new heights academically and athletically,” he said. 

Tennis player and real estate investor Matija Pecotic [Photo: Personal Album of Matija Pecotic].

In the end, Pecotic emerged victorious, not merely in terms of professional achievements but as a testament to his personal growth and self-mastery. 

“It was a triumph of finding the delicate equilibrium between my roles as a student-athlete, a leader, and a social being.”

At Harvard, Matija Pecotic gained knowledge beyond the confines of textbooks—lessons that shaped him in ways that transcended academic learning. The prestigious institution taught him the art of public speaking, honing his ability to communicate effectively and persuasively. The art of concision was instilled in him, allowing him to distill complex ideas into clear and impactful messages. Moreover, Harvard equipped him with the invaluable skill of discerning “empty suits,” the ability to identify insincerity and lack of substance in individuals or situations—a skill crucial in navigating various spheres of life.

In 2014, he embarked on his professional career and reached a career-high World No. 206 in 2015. However, his journey faced a setback before the 2016 Australian Open when he underwent stomach surgery and contracted a severe staph infection, confining him to bed for eight months.

Life has presented Pecotic with numerous challenges, and a health scare tested his resilience to its core. In the face of adversity, he had to embrace the reality of the situation and summon the strength to “claw” his way back to recovery with unyielding determination and a clear vision of his goals.

Throughout this trying period, the love and support of his parents and closest friends played an instrumental role in his journey to healing. Their unwavering encouragement provided the emotional fortitude he needed to overcome the obstacles before him.

“Recently, I also experienced the loss of my beloved grandfather, which deeply impacted me emotionally. Navigating the grief and finding solace in cherished memories has been a significant challenge,” he noted.  “Furthermore, a career setback shook my confidence and led me to question my path. Through self-reflection, perseverance, and the support of loved ones, I found the strength to adapt and forge a new path forward. These experiences have taught me the importance of resilience, leaning on support systems, and embracing personal growth in the face of adversity.”

Matija Pecotic’s approach to handling the mental aspect of tennis, especially in high-pressure situations, showcases his maturity and profound perspective on life. When faced with critical moments on the tennis court, he reminds himself that tennis is ultimately just a game—a competitive sport with its ups and downs, but not a reflection of his true identity or worth as a person. 

“As I’ve matured, I understand that there are ‘real’ pressures people face daily that are far more demanding than any moment on a tennis court. This perspective helps me maintain composure and focus, knowing that the outcome of a match does not define me or my worth,” he shared.

Keeping the American Dream Alive

For the members of the Balkan-American community aspiring to achieve excellence, Matija Pecotic who is part of the prestigious Wexford Real Estate Investors offers a comprehensive set of advice. First and foremost, he encourages everyone to reach out to others and build connections. 

“Seek mentors, and surround yourself with supportive individuals who can inspire and guide you. Secondly, define a clear path for yourself, setting specific goals and aspirations to work towards,” he said.

Matija Pecotic, tennis player, and Joe Jacobs, CEO of Wexford Real Estate Investors, captured together [Photo: Personal Album of Matija Pecotic].
Matija Pecotic, tennis player, and Joe Jacobs, CEO of Wexford Real Estate Investors, captured together [Photo: Personal Album of Matija Pecotic].

“Harness the power of visualization, vividly imagining your desired outcomes and using that vision to fuel your drive. Lastly, streamline your journey by cutting out unnecessary elements from your life. Identify anything that doesn’t contribute to your progress or align with your goals, and have the courage to let go. By focusing your energy and attention on what truly matters, you can pave the way for success.”

To successfully balance the demanding world of professional tennis with other important aspects of his life, such as travel, relationships, and family, Matija Pecotic relies on very efficient time management and an unyielding determination to achieve the goals he sets out for himself.

The job has to be done. I learned this from Mike Tyson.

Matija Pecotic

Acknowledging that the pursuit of balance is not always perfect, Pecotic emphasizes the importance of recognizing when to push forward and when to take a step back. This self-awareness allows him to adjust his efforts according to the circumstances, ensuring that he allocates sufficient time and energy to all the different facets of his life.To stay motivated and focused on his goals, even during periods of disappointment or setbacks, Pecotic adopts a mindset that separates emotions from the task at hand.

“Sometimes you can’t have fun accomplishing your goals. The job has to be done. I learned this from Mike Tyson. There’s no emotion involved. You do what you need to do until the job is done,” he said. 

Tennis player and real estate investor Matija Pecotic [Photo: Personal Album of Matija Pecotic].
Tennis player and real estate investor Matija Pecotic [Photo: Personal Album of Matija Pecotic].

Throughout Matija Pecotic’s career, he has witnessed significant changes in the sport of tennis. The game has evolved to become faster-paced and more physically demanding, with players increasingly focusing on athleticism and power.

Technological advancements have also played a significant role, influencing equipment and training methods, enabling athletes to achieve enhanced performance levels. Moreover, the sport’s popularity has grown exponentially worldwide, attracting a larger and more diverse fanbase.

Looking ahead, Pecotic anticipates further integration of technology in tennis such as data analytics and AI, to optimize player performance and enhance the viewing experience. “The sport will continue to adapt to the changing demands and preferences of players and fans alike, ensuring that tennis remains a captivating and dynamic sport for generations to come.”

Matija, my brother, you are not yet for the office, see you at the tennis court, soon.

Novak Djokovic

In February 2023, Novak Djokovic shared a poignant piece of advice with Pecotic: “Matija, brate moj, nisi ti jos za kancelariju, vidimo se na terenu uskoro.” Translated as, “Matija, my brother, you are not yet for the office, see you at the tennis court, soon.” The advice embodies the spirit of encouragement and camaraderie between two athletes, with Djokovic urging Pecotic to stay focused on his tennis career.

To Pecotic, the American dream signifies the classic rags-to-riches success story. It represents the opportunity for immigrants to come to the United States without deep-rooted connections and rise to great heights.  “It encompasses both financial success and social mobility. However, in the current political climate and with the presence of unpredictable leaders, there is a risk of America falling behind other nations,” he said. “My biggest concern lies in the social fabric of the country. We must navigate this landscape carefully to ensure that the American Dream remains alive.”

By upholding the values of unity, inclusivity, and perseverance, Matija Pecotic believes that the American dream can endure, empowering generations to come with the promise of limitless possibilities.  

Pecotic story of perseverance shines not just as an individual success but as a radiant star in the constellation of America’s great achievers—a living embodiment of the promise that the American dream, resilient and enduring, holds for the generations that are yet to be. A testament to the boundless potential that America offers to those who dare to dream.

Ksenija Pavlovic is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Pavlovic Today, The Chief White House Correspondent. Pavlovic was a Teaching Fellow and Doctoral Fellow in the Political Science department at...

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