The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News


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EIU tennis siblings’ journey from Australia

It’s a sibling thing
Fifth-year senior Max Pilipovic-Kljajic practicing his serve with his sister sophomore Emma Pilipovic-Kljajic on the Darling Courts. (Aidan Cusack)

There is a sibling duo on EIU’s tennis team that has made the trek from the sun-bleached courts of eastern Australia to the significantly less sun-bleached courts of Eastern Illinois.  

Fifth-year senior Max Pilipovic-Kljajic and sophomore Emma Pilipovic-Kljajic hail from Brisbane, Australia, just over 8,880 miles from Charleston. The great distance between home and school begs the question: why go so far for college?  

Max Pilipovic-Kljajic, the older sibling of the duo, said his primary reason was his desire to study abroad. The thought of going international intrigued him when he was deciding where to take his tennis talents, which ruled out many universities from his home country.  

Another reason was the bond he formed with the team and his former coach Chris Tolson while visiting.  

“They were all super cool and super friendly,” Max Pilipovic-Kljajic said. “I liked the guys, I liked the campus, I liked the coach, so I decided to come here, and I got a scholarship to come play.”  

Emma Pilipovic-Kljajic went through the recruitment process in a similar way to her brother, checking out many schools. Eventually, she would commit to Eastern based on her brother and her relationship with the women on the team already.  

“Max had known all the girls on the team and told me about them,” she said. “I had reached out to some of the girls just to talk and get to know them. I really liked the girls that I met.”  

The duo has played tennis through the majority of their childhood. Max Pilipovic-Kljajic has been playing tennis since he was 7, placed in the sport by his father.   

“I really liked playing tennis. I was fortunate enough that my dad brought me everywhere all the time until I was 18,” he said. “I’ve hit a lot of balls, thousands, millions, whatever. I’ve been playing my whole life.”  

Emma Pilipovic-Kljajic picked up the sport later in her life, starting tennis at 12. What she lacked in experience was supplemented by her rigorous schedule.  

“We traveled all over Australia to play tournaments; it was a grind,” she said.  

Max Pilipovic-Kljajic echoed her, saying, “We traveled all the time, on breaks, every day, on the weekends. I was never really at home. We were traveling or doing something. We had tournaments on the weekends, and we practiced every day.”  

Sophomore Emma Pilipovic-Klijajic practicing her serve with her brother fifth-year senior Max Pilipovic-Kljajic on the Darling Courts. (Aidan Cusack)

Now that the siblings’ hard work paid off, they yearn to make the most out of college. Max Pilipovic-Kljajic is the president of the Sigma Pi fraternity at Eastern. He has been involved in the frat since he was a sophomore.  

“I love it. I’m so happy I did it,” he said. “I met some of my best friends [at Sigma Pi]. It’s something else that separates my tennis from my academics.”  

Emma Pilipovic-Kljajic, on the other hand, may not have the time for Greek life, being a neuroscience and psychology double major on top of her time dedicated to tennis.  

Emma Pilipovic-Kljajic has played in eight matches in the 2023-2024 season, four doubles and four singles.   

Max Pilipovic-Kljajic has specialized in doubles play while at Eastern, often partnering with a wide array of teammates.  

Both siblings will be on the courts in the 2024 season.   


Aidan Cusack can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]. 

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