Former Gustie Eric Butorac ‘03 has earned the 38th rank on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Doubles Tour. Butorac was recognized for his achievements in The New York Times on September 2, 2010. His former teammate and current Gustavus Men’s Tennis Head Coach Tommy Valentini and former coach Steve Wilkinson remain close friends with him. Butorac also continues to come back to Gustavus and help current tennis players with techniques and support.
In The New York Times, Butorac is recognized for his outstanding serve, overhead, and deft volley. These are all technical skills which are essential components in his doubles team. Butorac’s current doubles partner, Jean-Julian Rojor of Curacao, brings the power to complement Butorac’s technical skills. They played in the Los Angeles Tournament together, where they lost to top ranked doubles team Bob and Mike Bryan in a close third set tiebreaker.
Butorac never thought that he would make it this far in his tennis career. “I had aspirations as a child, but once I realized how difficult it is to actually make it, I didn’t think I would really be able to do it, until maybe the year before I started playing Grand Slams.”
Wilkinson, however, does not doubt Butorac’s prowess. ”I think Eric is capable of making it to the top 10 He has played even with the top [players] in the world,” Wilkinson said. “[Butorac] is a role model for other tennis competitors. He models enthusiasm, good sportsmanship and tactical doubles. I admire him immensely.”
Steve and Eric have developed a strong relationship both on the court and off the court. “Outside of my parents, Steve Wilkinson has taught me the most in my life on and off the court. He is still the first guy I turn to, even when on the other side of the world,” Eric said. “Steve taught me three main things over the course of my career: to try to become the best tennis player that I can be, to be a great sport, and that includes giving maximum effort, and to focus on the things that I can control and let go of those things I can’t. “ Wilkinson has supported from NCAA Division III singles to the 2010 Australian Open. They have kept in close contact with each other throughout the years.
In fact, Wilkinson brought his 2010 January Interim Experience class to Butorac’s match in Australia. Seth Wisner, senior communications studies major, got the opportunity to meet Butorac on the trip. “[Butorac] is a really down-to-earth guy, and I could tell he really enjoyed speaking to our class,” Wisner said. “He welcomed all our questions about life on the ATP Tour. When we did the Gustie Rouser during a couple of his matches, he actually joined in, which was really cool to see.”
Valentini, Eric’s college teammate and close friend, is now the Men’s coach at Gustavus. “[Butorac] is one of my closest friends and was a great teammate. It was special to play with a player like him, who also made the team better. Eric was a great teammate on and off the court. The great memories are from on the road, traveling together, and playing for [Wilkinson] together,” Valentini said.
Valentini knew that Butorac was trying to succeed on the ATP tour, and would give it his full effort with a positive attitude. “I knew he would treat others the right way on his journey. He would approach the experience with the team’s values,” Valentini said. “I couldn’t really imagine that he would be in the top 30, [that] I would be watching him on TV and on the Austrian Open. No one could have really predicted this with Butorac coming from a Division III school. It’s a remarkable accomplishment.”
Butorac’s father also graduated from Gustavus in 1975 and won a national doubles title; he even made it to the Athletic Hall of Fame. In college Butorac played doubles with Kevin Whipple (now the Assistant Men’s Tennis Coach at Gustavus) and won several national championships. He also won the National Arthur Ashe Award, which recognizes outstanding sportsmanship, tennis playing, academics and humanitarian service.
Butorac’s advice to current Gusties who want to pursue their dreams in tennis is, “Try every single day to improve your game because, you never know what your limitations are. Also, if you can learn to enjoy the process of training and getting better, you can improve so much more and the experience will be even more enjoyable.”