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Former Tennis Pro is Back to Reclaim Her Ranking

Former Tennis Pro is Back to Reclaim Her Ranking

As a 31 year old, a mother of two, recently divorced, and out of the game for eight years, you would think tennis would be far from one's mind.  However, for Ema Burgic, there is only one goal, to get her ranking back.

Born in a small town in Bosnia, Burgic first picked up a racket at the age of 6.  “I really believe that for me, it was just meant to be for me to play tennis. My dad was diagnosed with cancer. When I was six, and in Bosnia, the doctors told him that he had three months to live. He was sent to Germany and later recovered.”

“There was a woman that was in the hospital with him who bought two rackets for her daughters. And those two girls never wanted to play tennis. My dad called me and asked me if I wanted the rackets.”

For Burgic, it clicked immediately.​​ “Apparently, since the first time I held the racket and the ball in my hand, my parents said I was just playing at home all the time. And I fell in love with it. After like six months, my coach called my parents to come and watch me play because I was standing out more than the other kids that were really talented.”

Photo: Lucky in Love / Ema Burgic

At just nine years old, Burgic traveled to America to represent Europe in a youth tournament. From there, she continued to travel across the world, eventually becoming ranked number one under 16 in all of Europe. Her skills eventually found her scholarship offers from dozens of American universities, ultimately playing for Baylor University.

“They were at the time top 10 in Division One. They were a really good team. And the coach told me that I can still play pro tournaments while I'm in college. So for me, it was perfect. I really only cared about tennis,” explained Burgic as to how she found herself at Baylor.

Following her success at the collegiate level, Burgic went professional.  By 2016, she was ranked 466 in singles and 145 in doubles, fighting for glory across the country and world.

Photo: Lucky in Love / Ema Burgic

At the same time, Burgic got married, settled down in Florida, and looked to start a family. At the peak of her career, with pressure from her now ex-husband, she walked away from the game.

“At the time, I was married, and my ex-husband wanted me to choose between tennis and having a family. At the time, I really didn't know, I got burnt out from tennis. Financially, I couldn't afford to pay for a coach. I was on the road by myself, it got really depressing. I was also dealing with different injuries. And I'm like, okay, do I keep going with this? Or do I just call it and build a family.”

While raising her two boys, Burgic ventured into the business and coaching worlds, but the hunger for competition never faded. “It's been tough all of these years, because I've been wanting to play. I’ve just missed it a lot. I miss the competition. And I stopped really young. I just always felt like I had so much more to give, you know, like, I never reached my full potential.”

Now 31 years old, and recently divorced, Burgic is trying to live without regrets. “ I don't want to be 50 years old and regret that I didn't try at 30. I really just want to give myself a chance. My body's healthy. If I feel good, then I want to go all in. And I want to see what my full potential is and be done with my career on my own terms.”

Photo: Lucky in Love / Ema Burgic

Eight years after she left the game, Burgic is back to playing tournaments. “The goal is to get my ranking back, start playing and to make it into the top 200 as soon as possible.”

Burgic is hoping to play several upcoming tournaments in the Caribbean and South America. She said that regaining her ranking will be difficult but essential to opening doors for more consistent tournament play.

Burgic recognizes the challenges facing her as she looks to restart her career.  “My journey is more complicated now. I’m not 18, 19 or 20 and can just play. I am 31, a single mom, and just went through a divorce last year. I have a four year old and a two year old that I need to take care of so I have to balance that and manage how I'm going to do this moving forward. So figuring out logistics right now is going to be very difficult.”

Burgic hopes to inspire others that it is never too late to chase your dreams. “I just want to show other women and other people out there that it’s really never too late to do what you want to do, and what you love.”



Matt Leviss is a Senior Journalism student from the Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. He is graduating in May to venture into sports media. Top photo: Lucky in Love / Ema Burgic. Video: Lucky in Love.

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