Kecmanovic Feeling So Lucky He's Ready To Play The Lottery
Quick: The last Serbian male standing at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells is? Hint: He's well spoken, can tell a joke or two and his last name ends in “vic”.
If you didn't guess “Who is Miomir Kecmanovic?”, you're not alone. The 19-year-old didn't predict his maiden ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final run in Indian Wells, either.
“I did not see that coming, not at all,” Kecmanovic said. “It will be funny that somebody other than Novak is still in.”
It has been a noteworthy few months for Serbian men's tennis. Laslo Djere, 23, won his first ATP Tour title last month, beating #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in the Rio Open presented by Claro final.
Filip Krajinovic, 2017 Rolex Paris Masters finalist, made the fourth round in Indian Wells, and that other guy with the “vic” ending to his last name – Novak Djokovic – won his 15th Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January.
But of all the stories exciting the Balkan nation, Kecmanovic's might be the most surprising – and the most promising, save for Djokovic's.
Kecmanovic lost in the final round of Indian Wells qualifying 6-7(3), 7-5, 7-6(4) to American Marcos Giron, who reached the third round (l. to Raonic), and the Serbian needed two people to pull out of the main draw because he was second lucky loser on the waiting list.
“Thank you to Anderson,” Kecmanovic said, referencing Kevin Anderson's withdrawal.
But once in the main draw, the Serbian has relied on belief. He's yet to drop a set against German Maximilian Marterer, Djere and Yoshihito Nishioka, who retired from their fourth-round match with an injured back after dropping the first set 6-4.
Kecmanovic's only goal for 2019 was to finish in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings, and, by making the quarter-finals, he's projected to rise to at least 36 spots, from No. 130 to No. 94. Kecmanovic is also projected to climb to sixth in the ATP Race To Milan, which will determine seven of the eight 21-and-under competitors at the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
How far can he go in the desert?
“At this point anything is possible. I mean, I lost a week ago and I'm still here,” he said. “So I just hope to keep playing like this and we'll see.”
Kecmanovic, who had just one tour-level win before the BNP Paribas Open, became the first lucky loser to reach the Indian Wells quarter-finals since the Masters 1000 series began in 1990. And as if his Wednesday could get any better, he also received a wild card into March's second Masters 1000 event – the Miami Open presented by Itau – on the same day.
With such luck, Kecmanovic was asked, has he considered playing the lottery? “No, but I'm going to definitely after that,” he said. “I'm going to get a ticket because this is just nice.”
Watch: #NextGenATP Kecmanovic Ready For Masters 1000 Debut
Kecmanovic moved from Belgrade when he was 13 to train full-time at the IMG Academy in Florida. The invite came when was playing at an under-14 tournament in Moscow.
“It was weird in the beginning, moving away from home, dropping everything, literally everything that I had back home, and leaving my parents behind,” said Kecmanovic, who saw his parents – both doctors – about twice a year once he moved. “But I knew... that I had to do it. Because if I stayed at home, I wouldn't have the same practices or coaches or everything, in general.
“If I didn't go there, I don't think that I would be here today.”
The first pro he hit with was a 6'5” Belarusian by the name of Max Mirnyi, who retired last year after a 22-year professional career that included 50 tour-level doubles titles.
“He was really nice to me. He still is. I'm happy that I had him, somebody so experienced to have to talk to sometimes,” Kecmanovic said.
Make no mistake, however, his idol is Djokovic, with whom he talks and practises with on occasion. Kecmanovic was 10 when Djokovic helped Serbia beat France for its first Davis Cup title. The boy was sitting in the stands, so close to the top that if he jumped he would have hit his head on the ceiling.
He saw Djokovic beat Gael Monfils to even the final, but, instead of staying and watching Viktor Troicki beat Michael Llodra to secure the title, Kecmanovic's parents made him leave and go practise.
“They were really [into] keeping me professional and all that,” he said.
His parents' attempt at early discipline, however, sounded better in theory than practice. “While I was on court, I was just looking at the TV. I didn't hit two balls the whole practice,” Kecmanovic said.
Djokovic has happily shared advice with the man who could one day – in all seriousness – take the mantle of top Serbian male from the 32-time Masters 1000 champion, and for more than just one tournament.
“Obviously sometimes you don't feel like doing anything. You feel like not practising or maybe quitting. And to hear him saying, 'No, you have to keep going. Push through it,' give some encouraging advice like that, I think that helped me a lot,” Kecmanovic said.
That made him work harder, an act that bring can good luck to all who try it.