What I also liked about Tin was that he understood sport. In his late teens he had become a talented sprinter, one who had the potential to go to the Olympics, though that dream was stopped by injury and lack of access to facilities because of tough conditions in Croatia. He had an understanding of what it took to be the best you can be as an athlete – how to deal with the highs and the lows that a sporting career can toss up.
I remember at the 2003 US Open I was having a very difficult time with my family – a lot of the reason being that I was still emotionally and financially distancing myself from them. After my mother arrived at my New York hotel room and demanded I sign over our house in Saddlebrook, Florida, to my father, I called Tin, knowing that speaking to him would calm me down and take my focus off the pressure I was feeling.
I was really sad.
I lost in the second round of that grand slam and Tin was the first one to call me after the match. I told him I wasn’t feeling good; we talked about the disappointment I felt about my tennis, how life was overwhelming. In Unbreakable I described how I liked having him to talk to about the day: ‘The fact is, right now I really can’t be alone. I love talking to someone who actually, I think, understands me. Tin’s kindness has won my heart.’
When I go back and read those words, I am struck by how the essence of our relationship, of Tin, barely changed over nineteen years. His daily kindness towards me, a highly traumatised person, was exceptional. Tin embodies a high degree of selflessness, of compassion and care.