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The Mind of a Champion: Vlada Hranchar

The Mind of a Champion: Vlada Hranchar

It’s early morning in Boca Raton. It’s late at night in Boca Raton. It’s the weekend in Boca Raton. While others of her age may be enjoying playing with friends, going to the beach, or watching shows on their tablets, 8-year-old Vlada Hranchar finds joy in another activity. Tennis. Honestly, what else would it be? 

Rick Macci tosses a ball, one after another, and Hranchar, with a racket that is almost bigger than she is, sends the fuzzy yellow sphere across the net with surprising speed, spin, and depth that other players of her age, let alone older players that she battles against, can rarely achieve. Hranchar attacks each ball with more effort and precision than the last. Incontestable dedication. Unwavering concentration. This is the story of Vlada Hranchar, a tennis prodigy with promise like few others.  

Above: Coach Rick Macci with Vlada Hrancher. Photo courtesy of Maryna Hranchar.

There are so many academies in Florida training so many promising youngsters. Why does Hranchar stand out among the lot? First of all, she has incredible perseverance. She grew up in Ukraine, and now she’s in Florida. We all know why that is. But after the war completely uprooted her family, Florida wasn’t the first place they turned. Instead, chilly Vermont was the spot that the family landed, but soon they learned that the state wasn’t the best place to foster Hranchar’s career. Florida called. “It’s warm,” says the prodigy with a huge smile. 

Hranchar idolizes Iga Swiatek and Jannik Sinner, but takes huge inspiration from her own parents. Her mom, a track and field star, and her dad, a hockey player, both competed in college. Athleticism clearly runs in the family. And the most impressive thing of all? Rick Macci, legendary coach of the Williams sisters, offered young Hranchar a scholarship, something he hasn’t done since he coached Venus and Serena. Macci said, “It took me an hour with Venus and Serena. But she went right in and started playing competitive points. I saw speed. I saw quickness. I saw agility. I saw determination. I saw a love for competition. She kind of knew the geometry of the court. Instinctively she had all the time in the world. People didn't understand when I saw that. I've only seen that and a few other players my whole life. That was another genetic quality that she had. And she had such discipline to be there every single point. A lot of these qualities, you can get as you develop, you know, you can get that as you develop. But she had a lot of things naturally.” But what makes Hranchar so good? What about her game specifically sends her home with trophies? 

Above: Vlada Hrancher training with Rick Macci. YouTube: Rick Macci Tennis.

She has a unique game for an American junior. When asked what her favorite shots are, she replied that she loves the backhand, serves, and volleys. While taking a walk around a Florida academy, you usually see players with ferocious baseline games, particularly on the forehand side. But Hranchar finds it more effective to approach on her backhand side, and finish the point at the net, something that takes opponents by surprise. And she has other qualities, which, Macci said, typically develop as a player continues their journey. She developed these qualities—some of them physical, like quickness and agility, while others mental, like discipline and a love for the game—at a surprisingly young age. All need to develop for a player to reach their potential. Many a player’s talent has been sacrificed because the player put other things first, for good reasons or bad. But since Hranchar has been able to develop in this way at such a fast rate, she is steps ahead of her opponents. 

Another important balance a player needs to have is that with their parents. We all know “tennis parents.” Too often we see parents putting too much pressure on their children to succeed in the game, when half the time the kids themselves aren’t even enjoying it out there. But Hranchar’s relationship with her mom is not like this at all, as the balance that the duo has been able to strike is truly exceptional. Her mom, Maryna, has found the sweet spot, the happy place where her daughter enjoys what she’s doing while still able to be a kid. A major passion of Vlada’s and Maryna’s is an Instagram account where Vlada, sometimes joined by her mom, does jaw-dropping workouts. They show the strength and inspiration the youngster gets from her mother, who found the same joy in track and field. The message to take away is that it’s all there for her. She has the right people around her, and there are no limits. 

Above: Vlada Hrancher wins the Little Mo East Regionals in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Photo courtesy of MCB Tennis.

If you’re wondering about Hranchar’s recent results, she recently won the Little Mo* Regionals in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Carol Weyman, Executive President of the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation said: “We were thrilled to meet Vlada for the first time at the ‘Little Mo’ East Regionals in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida in April. Her parents contacted me about three years ago when she was 5 years old about her eligibility to play ‘Little Mo’ and we have been waiting for her to turn 8 so she could play. And play she did! She not only won the Girls 8 title but she won without losing a game!”

*Editor's Note: In the past few days, Vlada Hrancher also just won the Little Mo Internationals in Colorado Springs, Colorado in her age bracket — and once again she was able to beat all her competitors without losing a single game. And, in addition to being the singles champ, she also took home the doubles and mixed doubles trophies too.


Written by Will Turvey.  Top photo courtesy of Maryna Hranchar. 

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