Dr. Franjo Bucar, after returning from his studies in Sweden, built the first tennis court in "Dom Hrvatskog Sokola", in 1893. That same year, the first clay court was built, in the garden of Dr. Marko Buhovec in Samobor. Therefore tennis has a long tradition in Croatia.
The Yugoslav Tennis Association (Teniski savez Jugoslavije) was founded on 27. 08. 1922 in the cafe "Zlatna kruna". Its first president was Hinko Wurth, the founder of seven tennis clubs in Zagreb, Osijek, Karlovac, Nova Gradiska, Bjelovar and Novi Sad. A month earlier, the Croatian Tennis Association (Hrvatski Teniski Savez) was founded and this points out the status Croatian tennis has had in former Yugoslavia. The information about Croatian tennis was easily accessible in the last 20 years thanks to it having been stored in computers and annals. But also, a great deal of thanks we owe to Michel Sutter whose book "The winners" contains information about all the world´s tournaments after 1946. But unfortunately, there was no true and reliable information about our tennis before 1946, and therefore the story about the first great generation (Franjo Puncec, Josip Palada, Dragutin Mitic and Franjo Kukuljevic) will be incomplete. Nevertheless their greatness will remain untouchable in the time when tennis was the most popular sport in Croatia. "Our musketeers" were for Croatia what Henri Cochet, Jean Borotra, Rene Lacoste and Toto Brugnon were for France.
Three great generations of tennis players made an impact on our tennis, and each of them had at least one top ten player. From Franjo Puncec to Boro Jovanovic, Nikola Pilic, Zeljko Franulovic, and Goran Ivanisevic. In women´s tennis, after the respectable results of Sabrina Goles came Iva Majoli, the first Croatian woman among top ten players. Not to be left unmentioned are those whose struggles for top, though they may have been unsuccessful, contributed hugely to the great reputation of Croatian tennis in the world. They had taken part in 22 finals of world´s biggest tournaments and 106 victories. For comparison with other regions of ex-Yugoslavia, in the same period, Slovenia had only 5 tournament victories and seven finals, while Serbia had 17 finals and 3 victories. Croatian tennis was the pillar of all Yugoslav teams. We must also mention the successes in younger categories, especially the three victories of Bruno Oresar on Orange Bowl and the highest rankings of Goran Ivanisevic. In the tennis world, Croatia has long ago found and maintained highly respectable position. Here below is a short story about the greatest accomplishments.
The six Croatian tennis players, each in their time, held the top ten position. Although computer rankings are made since 1973, before that we have lists published in important tennis magazines, that were valued as official rankings. In 1938. Franjo Puncec was No. 10, a year later No. 4, the best European after American Bobby Riggs, and Australians John Browich and Adrian Quist. Boro Jovanovic was eighth in 1963. The only better ranked European was Miguel Santana. Nikola Pilic was seventh in 1967, the second best European. Zeljko Franulovic was No. 9 in 1970. and 1971. Goran Ivanisevic, definitely the best Croatian player ever, was a top ten player five times out of six last seasons: No. 9 (1990), No. 4 (1992), No. 7 (1993), No. 5 (1994) and No. 10 (1995). He was best ranked No. 2 on 04. 07. 1994. After her successes in Zurich and Filderstadt, Iva Majoli became No. 9 in world.
Croatian tennis players have had a tremendous series of results on Grand Slam tournaments. They have never been the winners, but they were very close to that. Here below is a list of all accomplishments in all categories. Franjo Puncec was a Wimbledon and Rolland Garros semi-finalist in 1938. Josip Palada also succeeded in getting through to the semi-finals of Roland Garros in the same year. At Wimbledon 1967, Nikola Pilic ,after win over No. 1 seed Roy Emerson, lost a famous four-set match against Australian John Newcombe. Later in the year he also lost Roland Garros semi-finals against Australian Tony Roche. Five years later he was again in the semi-finals. Ilie Nastase was the man to ruin his dreams of victory. Boro Jovanovic was a a quarter-finalist of Roland Garros in 1969.
Goran Ivanisevic was a Wimbledon runner up in 1992 (Agassi) as well as semi-finalist in 1990. (Becker) and 1994. (Sampras). He was also a quarter-finalist at Australian Open and Roland Garros. Goran Prpic was the Australian and French Open quarter-finalist. Iva Majoli was a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros last year. Nikola Pilic an Boro Jovanovic were the doubles runner-ups at 1962. Wimbledon. Pilic was US Open doubles champion together with the Frenchman Pierre Barthes. Goran Ivanisevic and Petr Korda were the Roland Garros 1990. finalists. Mitic and Mathieu were the Roland Garros mixed doubles champions. Zeljko Franulovic was a first to play the World Championship in Tokio (1970). He was fifth after Steve Smith, Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Arthur Ashe and Jan Kodes. Goran Ivanisevic was a part of the ATP-Tour world championship in period from 1992. to 1994.
In 2005. Croatian tennis team won the Davis Cup - the players were Mario Ančić and Ivan Ljubičić, and the coach was Nikola Pilić.