Kecmanovic Thriving With Nalbandian In Support
However, If you dig a little bit deeper, you’ll quickly come across Miomir Kecmanovic. The Serbian began the year as the World No. 69 but is competing at the Mutua Madrid Open at a career-high No. 32 following his best-ever start to a season.
The 22-year-old soared to the quarter-finals at ATP Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami in March and is currently 23-9 on the year following his opening-round win against Alexander Bublik in Madrid.
Having earned only 14 tour-level wins in 2021, Kecmanovic feels a large factor behind his remarkable improvement has been the role of coach and former World No. 3 David Nalbandian, with the pair now flourishing after teaming last February.
“He has helped me out a lot. He has changed a lot of things,” Kecmanovic told ATPTour.com. “We have worked on a lot of stuff that I didn’t notice before. The way I try to construct the points, the way I think during the points and also my shot-making. He has had a major impact in all areas really.
“Our relationship has been growing over time and we are really close now. We have an amazing time together and I am so happy he is able to be here. He is a good person to look up to. To have someone who was so successful in your corner is really cool. Especially in the tough moments that you see him cheering for you, he brings out the best in me.”
Nalbandian overcame Roger Federer to triumph in Madrid in 2007 when the Masters 1000 was played on hard. If his charge is to follow him in his footsteps this week at the clay-court event, he will have to defeat five-time champ Nadal in the second round.
Ahead of the clash, Kecamanovic revealed that he is feeling confident in his game and will look to take his recent big-match experience into his meeting against the World No. 4.
“You get a lot of confidence from those runs in America. I earned good wins against [Matteo] Berrettini, Felix [Auger-Aliassime] and [Taylor] Fritz,” Kecmanovic said. “They were all playing amazing and I also had an incredible match against Alcaraz in Miami. They give you a lot of confidence moving forward to matches such as Rafa tomorrow.
“The conditions here in Madrid are a lot faster than ‘normal’ clay, but I feel I should play better, looking at my previous results this season. I started pretty well today and hopefully I can keep it going.
Kecmanovic first rose into the spotlight in 2019, when he advanced to his first Masters 1000 quarter-final at the BNP Paribas Open before he reached the semi-finals at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
When discussing his previous success, though, the Serbian quickly stressed that he feels his game is in a much stronger position now.
“I made one quarters a few years ago but I didn’t think it was well-earned like those recent events because I got dropped in at the second-round stage as a lucky loser and had a better draw than you would maybe expect at a Masters,” Kecmanovic admitted. “Now I feel I can really play with these guys.
“I have been playing a lot better in general. Everything that I was struggling with before is all coming together and all paying off. I am playing with a lot more confidence because I am winning a lot more so that makes a huge difference.”
Competing alongside Kecmanovic in Madrid is World No. 1 and countryman Novak Djokovic. The 34-year-old, who has won 86 tour-level titles, including a record 37 Masters 1000 crowns, is someone Kecmanovic has looked up to over the past decade.
“He is a big inspiration to a lot of people back home,” Kecmanovic said. “He made tennis popular and a lot of kids started playing because of him. It is amazing to have one of the best ever be from your country.
“I have come to terms that it is going to be very difficult if not impossible to repeat what he has done, so when you let that go, you start to focus on yourself. You do the best you can and go the furthest you can go.”
With Kecmanovic’s attention firmly on his own game, he will now aim to push on from his strong opening to the season and break new ground in the rest of 2022.
“The way things are going I would love to finish the year Top 20,” he revealed. “I don’t really defend many points because last year I didn’t win anything! I am in a great position and I am playing well, so why not?”