Serbian captain Sonja Petrovic is making her final appearance in the UMCOR U18 European Championship for Women in Novi Sad.
The Barcelona forward who won gold in Budapest two years ago was voted MVP of last year’s event after leading her country to a silver medal in Tenerife.
Belarus could stop Petrovic on the opening day as the 1.85m star fired Serbia to a
convincing 91-76 victory with 16 points and 15 rebounds in 22 minutes.
|Petrovic was tournament MVP last year playing for Serbia & Montenegro.|
She spoke to Cindy Garcia-Bennett on behalf of FIBA Europe after that win.
FIBA Europe: Sonja, this is your last U18 tournament. How does it feel to be back to an event in which you have played so well in the past?
Petrovic: "It's a great honor to be here. This is my third (U18) tournament in a row and my last. It would be great to win another medal although we know it is going to be difficult."
FIBA Europe: You played a crucial part in your country’s march to the championship game last season when Serbia & Montenegro, as the country was then known, beat its first seven opponents by an average of nearly 28 points. Can we expect more of the same this year in Novi Sad?
Petrovic: "Due to my experience and the fact that I was last year's tournament MVP, I have more pressure coming into this tournament. People expect a lot more from me but the most important thing is teamwork. I will try to contribute as much as possible to help the team win just as I did last year. The important thing is that we play well as a team and then we will go from there."
FIBA Europe: Changes have taken place with respect to last year, with Montenegro’s basketball federation being recognized by FIBA at the World Congress in Japan, which means the Serbians and Montenegrins play as two different teams. What has his meant for you and your Serbian team-mates?
Petrovic: "This year it is a little bit different because of the separation. We have lost many important players. Half of our team is one or two years younger so we don't have such an experienced team as last year but we will try to compensate this with other things."
FIBA Europe: You are playing in front of a home crowd. Will this backing propel you and Serbia to glory?
Petrovic: "I really hope so. Hosting the competition can be a big advantage or disadvantage. It would be great if people came to support us and watch us play. But it can give our team a lot of pressure because for some of our players, this is their first tournament."
FIBA Europe: Serbia only conceded one defeat last year and that was against Spain in in the final. Having played last season with Liga Femenina side UB Barcelona, do you have any extra insight into the defending champions?
Petrovic: "Spain are the number one favourites. They have some great and experienced players. A lot is expected from their players this year and they will be looking to go all the way. France are also strong this year and I think they have a chance, too. We are not ruling ourselves out, remember last year nobody knew much about Sweden and they finished third. But to finish in the top five would be a good result for us."
FIBA Europe: Sonja, you have plenty to look forward to in the coming months as you will be training with the senior team in preparation for the EuroBasket Women in Italy later this summer, before you start your second season with Barcelona. What can we expect from Serbia in Italy?
Petrovic: "It's difficult to predict what the Serbian team will do in Italy because we have a very young team. It will be a great honor for me to a part of the National Team in the EuroBasket and learn as much as I can from the more experienced players. I think we will have one of the youngest teams in Italy and I think it will be very interesting to see what happens. I was very happy with my season at Barcelona, it was my first time playing in a
league away from home. But I was fortunate to be playing alongside very good players and to have a good coach who helped me a lot. I played a lot of minutes in a strong competition as the Liga Femenina is and the first year was easier than I had expected."