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With a retooled mindset, and Rafael Nadal up next, things continue to click into place for Miomir Kecmanovic
Will the in-form Serbian, who has won all 10 of his opening rounds in 2022, prove to be a tough out for the Spaniard in his tour return Wednesday in Madrid?
Published May 03, 2022
TC DESK: Kecmanovic chats with Prakash about his Madrid start
It’s not always easy to get through your first match. But it doesn't matter how if you get another chance to play. Miomir Kecmanovic
On Tuesday, Miomir Kecmanovic began his 10th event of 2022 at the Mutua Madrid Open. And with his 6-4, 7-5 victory over Alexander Bublik, the 23-year-old is now 10 for 10 in opening-round matches this year, proving his mettle as an adversary hungry to simply compete.
Consistency is one word that sums up Kecmanovic’s season thus far. Confident also fits the bill. It’s a massive turnaround from the way his 2021 ended, when the Serbian lost 11 of 13 tour-level matches in main draws, including his final five.
But to Kecmanovic, it’s a different letter-c starter that describes his reversal of form: Clicking.
“Everything that we did last year took a little bit of time to get used to,” he reflected with TENNIS.com last weekend in Munich. “I'm thinking completely different on the court, trying to construct the points differently. I guess, this year, it’s just finally clicked, So I'm happy to see the stuff that we worked on is finally showing.”
One of those adjustments included adding David Nalbandian to his team in early 2021. The former world No. 3 had a vision of what to address in his new student’s game. Despite a dry spell of encouraging results and ongoing difficulty planning a training schedule with Nalbandian (based in Argentina) during the pandemic, Kecmanovic stuck it out, and eventually found a rhythm.
The Belgrade native went 14-26 in 2021, but by the time he ousted ninth-ranked Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round of Miami on March 26, Kecmanovic had already surpassed that win total in his new season.
“When David came, he was the one that kind of pushed for the changes, mixed things up a little bit, tried something different, It's been great having him, and also Johan (Ortegren). The two of them really work good together,” says Kecmanovic.
“It's nice when you can plan ahead. It wasn't like last year. You didn’t know what to expect each week.”
Last week in Munich, Kecmanovic reached his first semifinal of the year after being tripped up in the quarterfinal stage at his prior five events. He wasn’t on home soil, per se, but wasn’t a stranger at the BMW Open, either. German was the foreign language his parents selected for him to learn at school in Serbia.
“I used to speak fluently. I know I haven't spoke it in a while, but I understand everything,” he says. “Every single word.”
Prior to this year, Kecmanovic, who later moved to Bradenton, Fla. to attend the IMG Academy when he was 13, held an 11-13 mark on clay. With Tuesday’s result, he’s already doubled that career win total on the surface in 2022. It's another marker of the connected feeling that has come to fruition for the two-time Orange Bowl champion.
“I'm playing with a lot more patience, a lot more understanding of the game, and what can I do with what ball at what time. Not just trying to hit winners like on hard courts or grass,” he says. “I'm better physically now, I can run more, hold intensity longer, so all those things help me to play better on clay.”
Kecmanovic is up to a career-high No. 32 in the ATP rankings and in the running to be seeded at a major for the first time. When I asked whether that was a goal of his for Roland Garros, he said it would be “amazing, but that I don’t really care.” Inside, Kecmanovic has marked belief that his current output and execution will get him there.
The road from junior standout to ATP contender has reinforced the concept of appreciating the journey.
“When you're younger, you think. ‘oh, it's going to come like this, fast, and everything's going to come right away.’ It took a little bit to realize that the season's long, everybody's playing good, everybody can play tennis,” he says. “It's tough to win every week, every day. Once you come to terms with that, you relax more and try to give everything you have every week.
“Because you never know when an opening's going to show.”
What could Kecmanovic’s next opening be? For a start, a crack at taking down Rafael Nadal on Wednesday, in the Spaniard’s first match since the Indian Wells final.