Dragutin Kecmanovic has had a lot to do this year in his little wooden house by the lake. The father of the Serbian tennis professional Miomir Kecmanovic regularly notes his son’s best results on a blackboard in the cottage, and then he writes down the exact order of sentences with a felt-tip pen. “There were actually some new results right at the top,” says Miomir Kecmanovic, 22, smiling in the VIP room at the BMW Open.
There was exactly one request for an interview this Monday at the ATP tournament in Munich for the Serb from Belgrade, but it is very possible that it will soon be like the Australian Open, where he was in the round of 16 of a Grand Slam for the first time – and suddenly the interest in him grew. Or as in Indian Wells and Miami, he reached the quarterfinals of both Masters events and lost only to final tournament winners Taylor Fritz and Carlos Alcaraz. In Munich, Kecmanovic won his first round match against the cheeky 18-year-old Max Hans Rehberg 6: 2, 6: 3. Dragutin will not record it. The requirements have long since changed. Kecmanovic is 38th in the world rankings (after Munich he achieves his best position) and the second best professional in his country – behind none other than Novak Djokovic, who is at the top.
Approaching the world top in the shadow of oversized figures is not always easy, and many a German player suffered long-term comparisons, for example in the years after Boris Becker. Tommy Haas and Rainer Schüttler knew this subject well enough. He also feels a little pressured, says Kecmanovic, and yes, of course there are comparisons. But he enjoys great support, especially after the excellent matches this season, his popularity in Serbia is growing. At least he does not seem like someone who quickly drives himself crazy, “I’m more of the casual type,” he says, sounding very relaxed. In the duel with Rehberg, his ambitions came from time to time, he quarreled more often, the match was closer than the result. But here in the conversation, the relaxed Kecmanovic can be felt. He speaks casual American. A consequence of his time in Florida.
“Not everyone believed in me right away,” says Kecmanovic about his time at IMG Academy
Kecmanovic is an example of how some people only get stronger when they have to overcome resistance. His talent showed up early when Grandpa Jovan Pavlov dragged him onto the pitch, but one does not learn the bite at the touch of a button. It is usually the circumstances that shape this quality. “My parents sacrificed so much for me,” Kecmanovic says. When he is 13, they send him to the United States, to the famous IMG Academy. Only his aunt accompanied him. “Not everyone believed in me right away,” he recalls. He fought his way through, just as Maria Sharapova used to fight her way through there, “you definitely learn that there,” he says.
The successes came quickly and with force. In 2015, he won the Orange Bowl and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is currently number five on the world rankings. 2016 again. Success at this legendary youth tournament in Florida is considered an indication of a fantastic career, Steffi Graf, Björn Borg and Roger Federer are also on the list of winners. In 2017, Kecmanovic became professional, top 300, top 150, top 50, first ATP final in Antalya 2019, 2020 his first ATP title in Kitzbühel. It always went up as a straight line until he experienced stagnation for the first time in 2021. “I wanted to change a few things,” he says, admitting, “It was a bit of a wasted year.”
At the time, he brought in David Nalbandian as coach, the former Argentine top player and Wimbledon finalist from 2002 still helps him, even though the Swede Johan Örtegren looks after him in Munich. “This year, some of our work is finally paying off.” You can see that in a playful way, he builds up his points smartly. Demonstrates patience before hitting, mostly with his flat, aggressive topspin shots across or down the line. “Every blow must have a specific purpose,” Nalbandian also internalized it.
That he placed behind Djokovic in Serbia means a lot to him, “he is the best ever, it is hardly possible to replace him”. They spent time together in the Davis Cup, he now refers to the 20-time Grand Slam winner as a friend. “If he tells me what he experienced, it helps me,” Kecmanovic says. He speaks openly about his goal: “Grand Slam Champion.” Dragutin, a physician like mother Maya Pavlov, would certainly choose a particularly beautiful pen for this result.