Florida based Croatian real estate director Matija Pecotic has quickly become the front-runner for tennis story of the year.
The Serbian-born 33-year-old, who has worked full-time as a Director at a real estate agency in Palm Beach, Florida since the start of 2021, successfully qualified for the Delray Beach Open and made his way into the second round after a fairy tale few days which included a career-best win over Jack Sock.
Ranked 784 in the world, Pecotic, a former college tennis star who spent most of his childhood in Malta, signed in as an alternate for qualifying for a tournament located some twenty miles from his workplace.
Thinking he’d missed out, Pecotic drove to the event on Saturday to collect his racquets that’d been dropped off for stringing only to find out he was about to be placed against Stefan Kozlov into the first round of qualifying following a last-minute withdrawal.
Hours later he defeated the American who boasts a career-high of 103.
The next day he came from a set down to beat one-time Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 for a place in the ATP 250 main draw and a career-best result.
Playing his first ATP main draw event on Tuesday (local time) and riding a wave of confidence, Pecotic entered centre court to battle Sock, a former world number 8 and Masters 1000 champion.
After dropping his first two service games, Pecotic settled into the match but ultimately lost the first set 4-6.
Pecotic then tightened the screws and started to pick apart his counterpart before ultimately dominating the contest to seal a remarkable and highly improbable victory, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 for his maiden ATP level win.
Speaking on court post-match, Pecotic in fact revealed his boss, who was sitting in his player's box, had granted the Croatian a day off work to let his employee play the biggest match of his life.
"I had to leave work early today," joked Pecotic.
"I had to send an email to the whole team. [My boss] let me off. I'm going to have to ask for another day off tomorrow."
While most part-time tennis players would be thrilled to even be in the main draw of an ATP event, Pecotic was prepared to simply accept defeat.
"I certainly didn't expect to win, but certainly didn't come into the match thinking that I'm definitely going to lose," said Pecotic.
“You've got to be realistic. This is a former Top 10 guy with an incredible amount of tennis experience, with a huge serve. He came out serving [215 kph] on the first serve. It would be arrogant to think that I'm going to come out and expect to win.
"But I certainly figured if I could sink my teeth into the match and work on the two or three patterns that I prepared before, that I'm going to have a chance.”
Although Pecotic ultimately fell to Marcos Giron in his second round encounter, the thought of a part-time tennis player taking a day off work to take down some of the world’s best is exactly the double life that millions of ordinary fans around the world wish they had.
Pecotic’s journey, however, is far from ordinary.
The son of an orthopaedic surgeon, Pecotic was an unremarkable junior who never cracked the ITF top 1000.
Unsurprisingly given his lack of early success, Pecotic elected to take the collegiate path and mailed his recruitment DVDs from his Maltese home to prospective college coaches.
Eventually recruited by Princeton University in 2009 (majoring in Finance and Politics), Pecotic quickly found his feet at the collegiate level.
His four-year stint included being the first ever three-time Ivy League Player of the Year and captain of the men’s team as he rose to second place in the collegiate rankings with an intimidating reputation.
After turning professional in 2014, Pecotic collected twelve titles and rose to 206 in the world within two years before a serious stomach infection caused a change in trajectory.
While on an extended hiatus from professional tennis, Pecotic, clearly an excellent academic, sat the necessary exams and was accepted into Harvard Business School to complete an MBA.
He then turned his back on professional tennis altogether and immersed himself in his studies full-time.
While at Harvard, he became an assistant coach for the men’s tennis team and continued to train.
Following graduation, the left-hander returned to tennis and reached the top 400 once again only to have his progress stymied by the pandemic.
Eventually, Pecotic took a 9-6 corporate job but continued to train each morning with basically anyone who can pick up a racquet such is his love of the sport.
Since starting at his real estate agency, Pecotic has played sporadically with his ranking falling from 337 at the end of 2020 to 784 as of last week.
The Croatian is now predicted to rise 211 places to 573 after his week of a lifetime.