OT: Amer Delic in the US Open
First Bosnian Born tennis player, from Tuzla, has entered as one of the US WildCards into the US Open which begins August 25th.
Yes he will be playing for the US but I heard he obviously still loves Bosnia and in his heart will be playing for both.
Good luck to him. Hopefully a great career. Here is a story about all this...
Tough road to Open
Dolic flees Bosnia for tennis' top stage
By WAYNE COFFEY
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Amer Delic has gained a wild-card entry into the U.S. Open, which begins next Monday in Flushing Meadows.
On a steamy day in the South Bronx, the air is like gauze, the blackout is imminent and Amer Delic's competitive week is done, an exit punctuated by a few tossed rackets and a few balls launched into the sky over Crotona Park.
Delic is 21, the reigning NCAA men's singles champion, out of Illinois. He is sitting in a tournament trailer, absently flipping his cell phone from one hand to the other, his 6-5, 200-pound body folded on an undersized plastic chair. A half-hour before, he had unraveled in a second-round match against Cecil Mamiit in the GHI Bronx Classic, two forgettable sets that did little to detract from the wonder of a seven-year journey that has taken him from grenades to glory; horror to happiness; from the grim memory of a public massacre to the sweet celebration of his new status as a U.S. Open wild card.
It wasn't easy being uprooted from his homeland of Tuzla, Bosnia, to Jacksonville, Fla., but it sure has worked out.
"I keep pinching myself to see if this is real," Delic says. He smiles. The phone rings, and rings again. He lets the calls go. They do not figure to stop anytime soon.
"I really think he has a huge future," says Craig Tiley, his coach at Illinois, which captured the NCAA team title this spring.
Tiley recruited Delic out of Wolfson HS in Jacksonville, but even he might not have imagined the reach of his talent: the stinging backhand, the rocket serves, the angular agility. Delic's concentration can wander and his self-criticism can drain his willingness to fight, which is what happened in the Mamiit match, Delic finishing with some reckless risk-taking. But when he's on his serve-and-volley form, his game is formidable. Last month, he won his first pro tournament, a $10,000 Futures event on the USTA Pro Circuit, in Peoria, Ill. A few weeks ago, he had two match points on Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand, the No. 10 player in the world, before Srichaphan escaped at the ATP Tour event in Indianapolis.
"His serve is huge," Srichaphan says. "He was playing great tennis today."
Delic started playing at age 5, after his father, Muharem, gave him a wooden racket as a present. The boy went to a park in Tuzla, an old city with a rich Turkish influence, and began hitting with his friends. He had big, sure hands, and a good feel for the game from the start, according to his sister, 22-year-old Lejla Delic, Amer's roommate and fellow Illinois student.
Soon the public courts in Tuzla weren't safe, though, and neither was anyplace else.
Ethnic warfare in the former Yugoslavia began in 1992, and violence spilled everywhere.
The sound of sirens and bombs became regular occurrences, and so did trips to underground shelters. Nearly every window in the Delics' 13th-floor apartment was broken by sniper fire. People lived in daily terror. "Every day was a war zone," Lejla says.
Things were even worse in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, 70 miles away, and in nearby Srebenica, where 18,000 men and boys were killed in a single day.
On May 25, 1995, on a beautiful early evening in the main square of Tuzla, two grenades exploded, killing 79 young people. The cobblestone streets were soaked in blood, and littered with body fragments. The smell stayed a long while.
"It was very sad. It's something I wish had never happened," Delic says.
An air-traffic controller by trade, Muharem Delic and his wife, Sadina, finally decided they could no longer raise their children in such an environment. Taking the lead from a cousin who worked through a refugee organization, they relocated to north Florida, leaving behind virtually the entire family. The date was April 2, 1996.
The first month was a blur. Amer brought two rackets with him, almost as an afterthought, never thinking he would continue to play. In his new school, a counselor asked him if he had any outside interests. Amer told him he played tennis. Next thing he knew the tennis coach was setting up a time to hit. In his first stateside tournament, Amer, 13, playing against 16-year-olds in a local country club, made it to the finals, losing in the third set when his racket strings broke.
Delic would go on to a prep career that included a 45-1 record, and four consecutive area player-of-the-year awards. His father found work driving a petroleum truck, his mother in a mortgage office. The more good things that happened, the more Delic appreciated his parents' courage, and their sacrifice.
"They basically started their whole life over, because it was the best for us," he says.
Delic made his first trip back to Bosnia in the summer of 2000. When he saw his grandparents, they didn't recognize him; he had grown a foot. They hugged and cried, at the beginning of the visit, and at the end. Everywhere Delic looked, he saw destitute people, and rampant corruption.
"I wished somehow I could pick everybody up and bring them back to the U.S.," he says.
Lejla Delic will be getting her U.S. citizenship this week, and Amer's will follow shortly. A handful of credits short of his degree, Delic's plan is to spend the fall playing pro tournaments as an amateur, leaving the option of returning to Illinois for his senior year. Winning a match or two at the Open, of course, would likely change everything.
For more than half his life, Delic has loved to draw. He brings his pencils and sketch pad with him wherever he goes, the Open being no exception. The lines of his career all seem to be converging on promise. He has his NCAA title, his wild card, his new distinction, the only Bosnian-born player in the main draw of the Open.
The wooden racket his father gave him is now on display in the Delic home, his father having mounted it and hung it. Who knows where his new racket will take him? Amer Delic, refugee on a roll, smiles, his cell phone still flipping in his hands.
"I try not to look back too much," he says. "I prefer to look forward."