Novak Djokovic’s dramatic downfall against Jannik Sinner at the Davis Cup Finals is the final image of a glorious 2023 in men’s tennis, yet the Serbian story was not entirely gloomy in Malaga.
A few eyebrows were raised when Serbia captain Victor Troicki named Miomir Kecmanovic as his first singles performer for Thursday night’s tie against Great Britain’s Jack Draper, yet the 22-year-old justified his selection in a grand manner with a 7-6(2) 7-6(5) win.
He backed that up with a thrilling performance to beat Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti in the opening match of Saturday’s semi-final against Italy and, while he could not save the tie as he teamed up with Djokovic in the doubles, he left the Davis Cup Finals with his reputation hugely enhanced.
He may only be ranked at No 55 in the current ATP list, but Kecmanovic looks ready to take his career to the next level. Here’s a Tennis365 guide to one of our players to watch for 2024.
WHO IS MIOMIR KECMANOVIC?
Born in Belgrade in August 1999, Kecmanovic was inspired by Djokovic as he burst through the ranks in Serbian tennis.
His name was planted into the headlines as he was due to play Djokovic in the 2022 Australian Open first round, with his opponent changed after his compatriot was deported from Melbourne due to his Covid vaccine status.
Kecmanovic made the most of that fortunate break to reach the last-16 at the Australian Open, which is his best run at a Grand Slam.
He was also a quarter-finalist at the Miami Open Masters 1000 event in 2022, and beat Holger Rune in a tournament in Stockholm earlier this year.
The Serbian also made it through to the final in Estoril back in April, losing against Casper Ruud in the decisive match.
Alarmingly, he had 18 first round defeats in 2023 and that contributed to a less than impressive 25-30 losing record on the ATP Tour this year.
WHAT ARE HIS WEAPONS?
His two singles performances at the Davis Cup Finals confirmed he is blessed with a wide range of weapons, including a booming serve, thumping forehand and a solid backhand.
For a stockily-built player, Kecmanovic also has great movement and his ability to get to the ball and set himself before unloading with his forehand was too much for Draper and Musetti in Malaga.
He also appears to have a fine temperament, with his response to pressure applied in both of his singles matches so impressive.
It is hard to understand why a player with so much to offer has slumped to so many first round defeats on the ATP Tour in 2023, yet maybe his efforts in Malaga will provide him with a platform to power forward in the new year.
KECMANOVIC IN HIS OWN WORDS (interview with ATP)
“It definitely was tough at the start, especially for my parents. They had to make that call and I know it wasn’t easy for them, but I think they knew that it was the best thing for me at that time,” he explained.
“I’m very happy that they let me go to pursue my dream. I didn’t really speak English that well, didn’t know anybody. At the beginning, it was really tough to get through, but eventually everything came together.
“You have to be on the court every day, day in, day out. [You have to] give 100 per cent every time, even when you don’t want to, or you’re playing badly. It takes basically your whole life to commit to it, with the nutrition, with the mindset, with the way you behave, the way you act on the court.
“I also think you need a ton of people around you that can help you, that can guide you through it, because obviously you don’t know a lot at that age. I think you do need to find that balance, and you just need to commit to it every day.
“My parents gave me everything that I needed so I’d have an opportunity to do it, and obviously my aunt too, she travels with me a lot. She’s a big help of course with everything outside of tennis.
“I’ve had a lot of good coaches, physios and fitness guys, and I think I was very lucky to have a good group of people around me who wanted me to succeed for me, and just to help me in the journey.”
NOVAK DJOKOVIC’S VERDICT ON KECMANOVIC
“The progress Kecmanovic has made in his game is obvious. In the first place, his progress refers to how he moves on the court,” assessed the world No 1.
“His strokes have always been good but he lacked movements, frontside running, backwards running, transitions from defence to offense. I believe he has made substantial progress there. I’ve seen that his game has become much more aggressive.
“Kecmanovic has spent a lot of time in the US and he grew up as a tennis player at a hard court. He is an all-around player and he can adjust to different surfaces.
“I believe that he’ll play well on the clay because he is strong and in good physical shape. He also improved his serve he was struggling with in the past.”