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Ante Pavic hopes the confidence gained with his win in Columbus will eventually propel him into the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Long And Winding Road Leads To Success For Pavic

Croatia's Ante Pavic reflects on journey to maiden Challenger title

It has been a long and winding road for Ante Pavic throughout his eight-year career.

But as arduous as the journey has been for the 28 year old, victory never tasted so sweet. Pavic stood in the winners' circle for the first time on the ATP Challenger Tour on Sunday, lifting the trophy in Columbus, Ohio. It came in dramatic fashion, as the Croatian stormed back from a set and a break down to defeat Alexander Ward 6-7(11), 6-4, 6-3.

"It was a really good feeling,” Pavic told ATPWorldtour.com. “I've had good results, winning a round at Wimbledon and some matches in ATP events, but I never won a Challenger. It was a great feeling and I was just relieved."

After rising to a career-high of No. 132 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in 2014, on the back of strong performances to qualify at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, the Croatian came down with mononucleosis, and was out for six months. In 2016, he discovered a stress fracture in his right shoulder. This season, Pavic missed two months with hip problems.

The ATP Challenger Tour has been an important step in navigating that winding road. That was most evident last week when the 28 year old took a significant step in the right direction. His victory in Columbus saw him climb 135 spots in the Emirates ATP Rankings to No. 290.

"I was very nervous," Pavic said, referring to Sunday's final. "In the morning before the match and during the match especially. Somehow I managed to break back and relaxed more... the final was not the best match for us, but it's understandable knowing that it's the final and a big chance to win a first title."

It was not the first time that Pavic earned a big victory this season, winning his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 qualifying match this summer in Cincinnati against #NextGenATP Ernesto Escobedo. Nobody would have guessed that he had lost in the first round of a Futures tournament the week before against the World No. 804.

“I played a pretty bad match and wasn't at my level. After the match there were a lot of negative thoughts going through my head,” said Pavic, who was a few hours away from Cincinnati by car and decided to try to get into qualifying as an alternate, which he did. “Tennis is sometimes a crazy sport. When you think you're not ready and need more practice, you take pressure off yourself and just play the game."

It was not always easy for Pavic to overcome the tough times, whether it was a rough patch on the court or being forced out of competition due to injury or illness. But one thing has always remained the same.

"It's just the love for the game. The passion that keeps me in it,” said Pavic. “I was close to the Top 100 before my health problems. The most important thing is that I've always loved what I'm doing and I'm always trying to improve. It's not easy. There are a lot of moments when you feel down and you don't want to be 28 and dependent on parents and others to pay for expenses. But if you really want something, you can find a way to make it happen.”

Pavic’s big win in Columbus has given him the confidence that he can keep climbing the Emirates ATP Rankings, and he hopes that within a year or two he can break into the Top 100. But through the journey, one lesson stands out.

"Believe in yourself and keep working hard even if the results aren't coming,” Pavic said. “Leave the door open for good things, because you never know which tournament is going to suit your game. That's one of the big lessons and exactly what happened to me."

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