Miomir Kecmanovic’s left Serbia for the United States at 13 to pursue his dream of becoming a professional tennis player. However, the #NextGenATP star keeps his home country close to his heart.
“It means everything. It gave me everything. It gave me a life,” Kecmanovic told ATP Uncovered presented by Peugeot about Serbia. “I definitely don’t take it for granted. It’s exciting to just have this experience.”
Scattered throughout his family’s apartment are countless trophies he won at local junior events, international junior tournaments, and even the award he claimed for competing at last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals. The apartment remains the way it was when he was growing up. Belgrade is still home.
“It was fun growing up in Serbia. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m usually here during the summer, during the French Open, Wimbledon, when everything’s in Europe. My family is here and everybody I know is here. It’s always cool to come back here and have fun,” Kecmanovic said. “I think it’s beautiful, honestly. You have amazing food, amazing sights. You’ve got some pretty cool stuff here.”
Kecmanovic brought the ATP to a lakehouse his father built. Newspaper articles about the Serbian hang on the walls. His biggest accomplishments are written on a whiteboard. The most recent entries note his 2019 BNP Paribas Open quarter-final and runner-up finish at the Turkish Airlines Open Antalya later that year.
The 20-year-old rowed a boat through the water by the lakehouse, marvelling at the sights along the way.
“There are a bunch of places like this in Serbia,” said Kecmanovic, who this past off-season practised at the Kalemegdan Fortress for the first time. “Obviously the city is fun, but this is also exciting and calm.”
Kecmanovic’s grandfather, Jovan Pavlov, recalls taking a young ‘Misha’ to meet a coach for the first time. Kecmanovic and his family didn’t have a racquet or balls, but the coach provided them.
“[He] showed Misha how to play the forehand and backhand,” Pavlov said. “After that he showed a great desire to play every day. As soon as we woke up, he would immediately say, ‘Grandpa, let’s not be late for tennis!’”
Ivan Petkovic, one of Kecmanovic’s childhood coaches, remembers how professional the Serbian was at a young age.
“He was already at a very early age living and practising like a small pro. We think that these harsh conditions and difficult conditions to train and to work [under] only make you stronger,” Petkovic said. “If something manages to bloom in the desert, and you put it in the ideal situation, it will for sure bloom into what he is today.”
Kecmanovic, who moved to Florida to train at the IMG Academy, is the second-youngest player in the Top 50 of the FedEx ATP Rankings (trailing only Felix Auger-Aliassime). However, the World No. 47 maintains strong relationships in his native Belgrade, where his former coaches, including Veliko Barjaktarovic, are like family.
“For the coaches [and] for the kids who want to play tennis, now they know that they can achieve success,” Barjaktarovic said. “He inspired a lot of people.”