Miomir Kecmanovic has faced tough challenges before, earning a Top 10 win against Alexander Zverev two years ago. A victory on Friday against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the Serbia Open quarter-finals, however, would be his biggest triumph yet.
“It’s going to be a dream to play Novak, particularly on home soil,” Kecmanovic said. “I’ve trained with him and I have admired his game for so many years. He has helped me by his example as a champion and pushed me to improve.”
This will be the World No. 47’s first shot at challenging Djokovic, who said he was “pretty flawless” in his opening win in Belgrade on Wednesday against Soonwoo Kwon. Kecmanovic, who is 21, will rely on his experience playing Rafael Nadal in Acapulco last year. The Spaniard was victorious 6-2, 7-5.
“I will attempt to use the experience I had in my previous Top 10 matches, particularly playing Rafa in Acapulco,” Kecmanovic said. “I’ve played reasonably well this year and I’ve tried to develop all areas of my game, but I hope to push through to the next level and, against a player like Novak, I will need to be disciplined in my tactics. It will be a great challenge.”
Although there are not big crowds like in normal times because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the match will still be more meaningful with both men competing on home soil. Djokovic said as much when he looked ahead to the clash.
“The fact that the tournament is in Belgrade can be motivating, but there is a thin line between the best tennis and weak tennis because of the pressure,” Djokovic said. “Unlike when you’re playing abroad, here you feel you have to win.”
The third Serbian in the Belgrade quarter-finals is Filip Krajinovic. The fifth seed knows the daunting task Kecmanovic is facing, as Krajinovic’s first clash against the superstar came at this event 11 years ago, when he was 18.
“For sure it’s going to be a good challenge for Kecmanovic playing Novak on this court at his club. It’s not easy, believe me,” Krajinovic said. “I played [him in Belgrade] 11 years ago when I was really young. There was a lot of pressure, I remember. I couldn’t sleep the day before.
“People love him here, he’s the greatest of all-time and people have a lot of respect for him. They live for his tennis, so it’s not easy to play against him. I wish it will be a good match and for sure I will watch it.”