Croatian Tennis Federation Rejects Established Croatia Player for Brother’s Social Media Posts?

Daniela Rogulj

Updated on:

Davor Javorovic / PIXSELL
Davor Javorovic / PIXSELL

His Facebook post transmitted from 24 Sata:

“The Croatian Tennis Federation rejected the request to invite the seven-time senior national team member and #268 WTA tennis player of the world to the ITF Zagreb Ladies Open, explaining it to Tena as follows:

‘Because of your brother’s Facebook posts, you are not a candidate for an invitation to the tournament!’

There is no question that the tournament organizer can invite whoever they want, which is justified, and there is no dilemma. In fact, I don’t think it’s exciting at all, nor sportsmanlike to comment on. It should be accepted that each organizer has their own vision and program, and that is ok. And I use this opportunity to wish the tournament in Zagreb a lot of luck, and I am convinced that it will be a successful and strong tournament with many good tennis players. I hope it will be around for many more years and grow.

My comment refers exclusively to the given reasoning and the North Korean methods of “education” and “proportional punishment” of athletes, which once again show the superior competence of the pedagogical quality of the HTS leadership itself. I can only say touché to the umbrella association of Croatian tennis,” wrote Feliks on his personal Facebook profile. 

After the post, Lukas explained to 24 Sata why he was so angry: 

“Of course, every organizer has the right to invite whoever they want; I told my sister that she has to work on her own ranking so that she would not even need an invitation. We are a sports family, and we do not want to whine, and it was not the rejection of the invitation that prompted me to publish, but the way of communication and explanation. Obviously, the HTS is in a kind of “fight” with me because of my statements and provocations; this is nothing new, but, sadly, they are dealing with my family like this through me. Two years ago, my other sister, Tajna, was fired from HTS,” Lukas said and added:

“These are your “Croatian jobs,” they are trying to eliminate me as a hindrance in various ways because I called them out because of incompetence. Our tennis is generally in chaos, most clubs don’t work, and I say that publicly. Since I am not politically engaged and networked, that I come from a family of educators, and I organize a big tournament, it is obvious that I am a threat to them. But it’s one thing, it’s not a topic, the topic is the way of communication, the topic is how they treat one player completely non-pedagogically, and what kind of message they send to her and everyone else. It bothered me a lot, and that’s why I reacted,” he concluded. 

The Croatian Tennis Federation gave their reason for not inviting the tennis player 24 Sata.

“As a member of the Croatia national team, Tena Lukas was certainly among the candidates for an invitation to the Zagreb Ladies Open because she deserved this opportunity with her performances in the former Fed Cup (now the Billie Jean King Cup) and on an individual level. However, her latest results were crucial not to be shortlisted this time: she played seven tournaments this year and she was eliminated in all seven in the first round, either in the main event or in the qualifiers. Therefore, other Croatian tennis players got the advantage, so the claims that comments on social media were crucial for not giving Tena Lukas a chance really have no basis,” HTS spokesman Igor Rajković replied.

Lukas followed HTS’s statement by outlining on Facebook every reason why HTS was wrong in what they did:

“Regarding my previous Facebook comment, which was transmitted in the Croatian media, HTS had to comment with its official press release, and it just confirmed how uneducated and inexperienced they are in the development of Croatian sports, specifically tennis.

Namely, in its defense, HTS stated that the mentioned tennis player Tena Lukas did not get a wild card because she has practically not been able to beat anyone lately. 

Their announcement to anyone in the educational system would be a reason for dismissal. Physical and health education teachers, together with tennis coaches, need to change their way of educating and approaching the development of athletes, as HTS imposes new innovative standards in the development of mental strength and preparation of athletes. 

And if you are still a layman when it comes to educational methods, imagine the following situations and put aside the fact that the HTS accused the tennis player of lying, and imagine the following situations:

1) Imagine that you are a 25-year-old tennis player who is currently in a game crisis, but who also performed at the state senior tennis championship organized by HTS a record number of times with a title, 7 times in a row, and that the same HTS sends you a message through the media that you are incompetent and that you can’t beat anyone, and that you didn’t deserve an invitation from them for the tournament qualifiers.

2) Now imagine the situation that you are the #274 tennis player in the world in the WTA rankings, and that the WTA is the strongest “brand” in women’s sports globally, and that Croatia, along with Martic and Vekic in the top 100, has 4 girls ranked 200th to 300th in the world (Konjuh, Mrdeža, Fett, Lukas), but HTS thinks that you can’t beat anyone lately, and they list every painful defeat with which they explain to you pedagogically.

3) Imagine a situation where you played 13 times for the Croatia tennis FED CUP team and achieved 6 victories for the same. That you accepted a performance for that FED CUP when no one wanted to play (obviously due to the great reputation of HTS), and that with your performances that year, you ensured that Croatia remained in the Euro-African group. Imagine that when HTS needed to save the day, you responded and were there, and you never got anything from HTS, not even an appointment for training in Zagreb. Imagine the humiliation when HTS retaliates with a roll call for lying and the media “shit” on you as you lost in the first round of seven matches. Even in the qualifiers. I would guess that they would motivate you to play better and that they are there for all Croatian tennis players. Surely many will still dream of playing for HTS, Davis Cup, and Billie Jean King Cup, i.e., Fed Cup. After all, if you think that Pera and Tomljanović play for the USA and Australia because HTS is really worked on them, let this story serve as an example.

If all the above reasons were not enough for Tena to get a wild card for the quality of the ITF tournament in Croatia, then they must have been enough so that her self-confidence and pride are not spat on by those who would have to take care of her career to live in a more developed society. They easily accused her of lying and covered up the explanation they gave her in the phone call, but what they told the media is even 100 times worse and more miserable. And that says it all about what kind of people manage Croatian tennis.

Now imagine for the end the situation that Ana Konjuh did not get a wild card for the Australian Open and Miami Open with this explanation. How much the Miami Open and Croatian tennis would have been missed because of that if they had characters from HTS as “decision-makers.”

Fortunately, HTS does not organize the WTA tournament in Bol, which is silent suffering for them, because Petra Martic would never get a wild card, as she did in 2016 at the WTA Croatia Bol Open when she was the 420th tennis player in the world, and when no one but family and a few connoisseurs of sports believed that Petra would be in the top 100 again very soon. Petra won the doubles trophy at that edition of the tournament and soon began her journey to the top.

As the organizer of the tennis tournament, I did everything despite all obstacles to help young talented tennis players from all over the world, so today, the young ATP lions Casper Ruud and Jordan Thompson and countless Croatian tennis players played in Bol at tournaments organized by me. World media would never know that Bol was the best place in the world for Nadia Podoroska, who played in the semifinals of the RG this year, if HTS had been asked.

But I am most proud that in 2019, for the first time in the history of Croatian women’s tennis, as many as 4 Croatian tennis players performed in the main tournament of a WTA tournament. This never happened before the WTA tournament in Bol in 2019, and the invitations that Martic, Konjuh, Boskovic, Fett, Biskic, and others received in Bol, and of course Lukas, they did not receive at the request of HTS, nor did HTS ever ask for invitations for those girls, nor did they care. But good luck for the WTA Croatia Bol Open and for Croatian tennis that HTS does not grant invitations in Bol.

Namely, I never received a letter of support or a positive comment from HTS. Still, I received an official e-mail after the mentioned edition of the 2019 tournament, where 4 Croatian tennis players had a safe entrance to the main tournament, that I harmed the Croatian Tennis Federation by not inviting senior board members of HTS. And I can’t lie about that because there is written evidence. And at the same time, their employees, the then executive director, and sports director slept in Bol at the expense of the WTA tournament. But HTS obviously wanted the bus to come to them; they devour them and spend money on someone else’s account.

Tajna Lukas Recic was fired upon returning from maternity leave because they were redistributing their jobs (after that, they hired new people because there is no place for a master of kinesiology and a former state tennis champion) and not because her last name is Lukas. And it seems that Tena did not receive an invitation either, because with seven titles in the senior competition, a few in the junior competition, and a #268 world ranking, she still doesn’t know how to play tennis enough according to HTS – and not because her last name is Lukas.

P.S. The organizer, I note, has the right to assign a wild card to anyone, and that is their discretion. Being a tennis player without a single point or top 100 does not mean that they need to play a toilet of a tournament. But the point of this story is how the umbrella association of a sport in a democratic country communicates with the athletes who represent that same country.

Because it was a phone call, I don’t have a written trace … The fact is that Tena played for HTS when everyone rightly rejected them, and the same is the fact that HTS beat the same tennis player through the media, accusing her of lying publicly, and added that she lost the last 7 matches in the first round and in the qualifiers. Therefore, as I said in a previous comment transmitted by the media, TOUCHÉ HTS.”

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