FLASHBACK: Danilovic reached the quarterfinals of the 2021 Hungarian Ladies Open.


PARIS—Hailing from a country that doesn’t lack for sporting inspiration, Olga Danilovic is channeling Nikola Jokic as she compiles a nine-match winning streak that has stretched her into the second round of Roland Garros.

A two-time NBA MVP—“Should have been three-time,” corrects the 22-year-old Serb in her small but lively post-match press conference—Jokic has led the Denver Nuggets into their first-ever NBA Finals, and the daughter of former basketball star Predrag Danilovic has been keeping up any way she can.

“I watch highlights and I watch Twitter a lot,” she says, miming a bedtime social media scroll that often requires her to check in from an unfriendly timezone. “We are all super proud of him and we all follow it.

“I love the guy, and I admire him so much, the way he’s so spontaneous but also such a nice, humble person, that kind of character is what we all appreciate most.”

Danilovic, who has also trained at Novak Djokovic’s academy, has been on the brink of a similar superstardom since she roared to her first WTA title as a teenager. In a three-set thriller against Anastasia Potapova, she won the first final contested between players born after the year 2000 at the 2018 Moscow River Cup.

The victory helped her earn a Top 100 debut that same season, but injuries and illnesses have conspired to keep the powerful lefty from becoming a consistent presence on the WTA circuit.

“I’ve had some setbacks, a lot of them!” she says with a laugh. “Those have been very tough moments for me, but I realized that I need to love myself in those shitty situations where it’s not so great and you don’t feel so great, and you kind of want to be there but you’re not.”

After going 1-5 between Miami and Rome, Danilovic caught a big wave right before Roland Garros, winning her biggest title in almost five years at an ITF 100K tournament in Madrid and rolled through qualifying without dropping a set.

“You know what? I never kind of put these things in my head, but I did feel great in Madrid. I was like, ‘Maybe this is the moment where I’m feeling good about my game; I just have to be there and play my best.’”

She clinched her berth in the main draw over 18-year-old Erika Andreeva, a full-circle moment for the former teen phenom.

“You know, it’s so funny because I was always the one where people would say, ‘She’s the youngest, she’s this or that,’ but now I’m not the youngest! I think of her sister, Mirra Andreeva, who plays unbelievable, and she’s 16 years old. I’m like, ‘Oh my god! I’m six years older than her!’”


Long wiser than her years, Danilovic will happily assume the role of “elder stateswoman” if it helps her maintain this elite form. Up against Kateryna Baindl, she raced through the first four games and held off a late surge from the Ukrainian to win, 6-3, 6-2, with 22 winners and six breaks of serve.

“I feel great. I’m very proud of myself. I just came from a tournament to here and I’ve been playing a lot, but I kept my game, I kept myself. I played my game, I supported myself, and I’m a friend to myself on court, which is so important. I think that’s what is keeping me going good.”

With Italian Jasmine Paolini waiting in the next round, Danilovic aims to keep the streak going long enough to not only score a career-best result at a major tournament but also slam dunk an overdue return to the Top 100.

“You have to believe in yourself, which isn’t always easy,” sighed the Serb.

“I’m not a master of it now,” she adds with a comic cringe, “We still have some ups and downs!

But my favorite movie is Finding Nemo, and there’s Dory saying, ‘Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!’ So, it’s like, just keep playing, just keep playing, and we’ll see what happens.”