16/04/2024

Kecmanovic is the Serbian beneficiary of Djokovic's deportation. (Photo: Eurosport)

After Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia, Miomir Kecmanovic had mixed emotions. The Serbian world No. 77 has made his mark.

Scheduled to play each other in the first round of the Australian Open, Davis Cup teammates Miomir Kecmanovic and Novak Djokovic may have chuckled to themselves when the draw was announced.

One Serbian’s loss is another Serbian’s gain

Currently ranked 77th in the world Kecmanovic would have been excused for believing a round one encounter against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic meant a round one exit.

Djokovic has not lost at Melbourne Park in 22 matches, since a shock-loss at the hands of South Korean Chung Hyeon in 2018.

The nine-time Australian Open champion also boasts a 100 per cent head-to-head record over his compatriot, with a straight sets thrashing in Belgrade last year their only encounter.

Luck would fall into Kecmanovic’s lap when his fellow countryman was deported from Australia, meaning that the young Serbian would instead face lucky loser Salvatore Caruso in the first round.

Speaking after his first match, Kecmanovic said he was trying to avenge the loss of Djokovic to the Australian Open.

“It was hard not to talk about that topic since it was happening right before our matches, especially with me supposed to play him also”, he told media.

“We said we were going to give everything we have, try to avenge him in a way and make him proud.”

Speaking to Serbian news, Kecmanovic said he would dedicate a potential first round win to Serbia’s greatest ever tennis player.

“I will always be grateful to Novak for his support and unselfishness in helping me. He always has the energy to share his knowledge and experience. If I win my (first round) match, I will dedicate that win to Novak,” he said.

A remarkable rise to the fourth round

The 22-year-old from Belgrade came out firing in his first round clash against the Italian Caruso. A statement three-set win over the lucky loser was dominated by a crushing forehand, as the Serbian won, 6-4 6-2 6-1.

An upset win over 41st-ranked Tommy Paul ensured Kecmanovic reached the third round of the Australian Open for the first time. The margin of the three-set victory was highlighted by two intensely-close tiebreakers, as he took out a 7-6(7) 7-5 7-6(8) win.

An inspired Kecmanovic at Melbourne Park. (Photo: Eurosport)

And then, on Friday, Kecmanovic extended his sensational winning streak as he defeated another Italian. This time, it was 25th seed Lorenzo Sonego who was brushed aside, 6-4 6-7(8) 6-2 7-5.

Kecmanovic is in unchartered territory, having never reached this stage in a Grand Slam before.

With the first seed out of action, Kecmanovic’s quarter of the draw is open. He will play 17th seed Gael Monfils for a spot in the quarter-final.

Kecmanovic in action at Melbourne Park. (Photo: Dunlop Tennis)

Previous best tournaments

Kecmanovic has played in two ATP 250 Final’s. In 2019, he lost to Sonego in the Antalya Open, before success came his way in 2020.

On his way to the Generali Open Final in 2020, the Serbian defeated Australian Jordan Thompson and Japanese tennis legend Kei Nishikori. Kecmanovic then defeated two qualifiers before dominating a third qualifier, Yannick Hanfmann, in the final to win the title 6-4 6-4.

Kecmanovic won the 2020 Generali Open. (Photo: ATP)

Prior to this year’s Australian Open, Kecmanovic had won just seven Grand Slam matches in 18 attempts. He has reached the second round of all Grand Slam’s, showing he has the prowess to win on all surfaces.

Kecmanovic has won just one match against a top-10 opponent, impressively taking care of then-world No. 6 Alexander Zverev in the 2019 Cincinnati Open, 6-7(4) 6-2 6-4.

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How much damage can Kecmanovic make?

The Australian Open is famous for bolters in the men’s draw reaching the final few days of the tournament.

Chung Hyeon became a cult hero in 2018 when he made it to the semi-final of the Australian Open, defeating Djokovic and Zverev along the way, before sadly retiring in the semi-final against Roger Federer due to severe blisters.

Just last year, Aslan Karatsev was a qualifier and made it to the semi-final before Djokovic defeated him.

The Australian Open has also become a launching pad for successful careers, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reaching the final in 2008 and Marcos Baghdatis making it to the same stage in 2006.

Kecmanovic’s next opponent Monfils is in hot form, having recently won the Adelaide International. The Frenchman is flying at the Australian Open and aiming for his second career quarter-final appearance at Melbourne Park.

The pair have played each other just once, with Monfils taking a close three set win at the 2021 ATP Masters 1000 in Paris, 6-4 5-7 6-3.

Coached by former Australian Open villain David Nalbandian, the sky is the limit for a confident Kecmanovic.

Can the powerful Serbian continue his giant-killing form at the Australian Open? Only time will tell.

Kecmanovic will play Monfils on Sunday at Melbourne Park, with the schedule to be released on Saturday afternoon.

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