19-year-old Miomir Kecmanovic is a young rising star that you might not have heard of. He doesn’t have the serve of Reilly Opelka, a big win over Rafael Nadal like Denis Shapovalov nor has he reached three ATP finals in the past year like Felix Auger-Aliassime. However, Kecmanovic is rising quickly, and is a player to watch out for at the US Open.
Kecmanovic started the year at world #131. At one point during the 2018 season, he was even ranked outside of the top 200 in the World. Kecmanovic came into the 2019 season with a lot of momentum, having went into the offseason with a win over Blaz Kavcic in the Shenzhen 2 Challenger final to finish off the 2018 season. It was time for Kecmanovic to really start his ascendency in the ATP Tour rankings.
Kecmanovic qualified for both Brisbane and the Australian Open to start 2019, but it wasn’t until Indian Wells that he really took his game up another level and started to get his name out to the casual fan. Coming into the tournament as a lucky loser, having fallen to Marcos Giron in the final qualifying round, Kecmanovic surprised many with a quarterfinal appearance at one of the biggest tournaments of the year. Although he did benefit from Yoshihito Nishioka’s retirement after one set in the last 16, it was still very impressive Kecmanovic was able to make the quarterfinals without losing a set. And while Kecmanovic lost to Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals, he showed he had the ability to go far in a high-level ATP tournament.
After middling results throughout the clay court season, Kecmanovic made a splash again at the pre-Wimbledon warm-up on the grass in Antalya. The Serb only dropped one set on his way to his maiden ATP Tour final appearance. Kecmanovic was one tiebreak away from winning the title, but ultimately lost in three sets to Lorenzo Sonego. Nevertheless, it was a massive breakthrough. Before Antalya, Kecmanovic had only won two professional matches on grass in his life, and only one in main draw action. To be able to adapt his game and have good results on the unpredictable grass in Antalya was very impressive.
The summer hard-court swing has been a consistent one so far for Kecmanovic. In the first Atlanta, Washington, and Cincinnati, his first three events, Kecmanovic won at least two matches and picked up some good wins, beating Ugo Humbert, Alexei Popyrin twice, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alexander Zverev. And while Kecmanovic lost in the second round of Winston-Salem to Denis Shapovalov, his 9-4 record, including qualifying, on the North American hard courts constitutes a huge success for the Serb. His current ATP Tour ranking of World No.49 is his career high, a sign that all of his hard work is paying off.
Kecmanovic has been able to rise up the rankings through the strength and consistency of his groundstrokes. He doesn’t have one standout weapon, but he is able to hit to precise locations on the court with good margins, but without losing the speed-of-shot that over-reliance on topspin can create. His movement and anticipation are world-class and Kecmanovic is becoming a bigger nightmare to play by the week.
However, one area where Kecmanovic has yet to find real success, so far, is at the Majors. While it is true that he qualified for the Australian Open this season, he lost in the first round in straight sets to Fernando Verdasco. His best finish at a Major remains his second round showings at the French Open and Wimbledon this year. At Roland Garros, he survived a five-setter against Denis Kudla in the first round before losing to David Goffin in straight sets in the second round. At Wimbledon he beat Roberto Carballes Baena in four sets in the first round and then lost via retirement in the second round to Benoit Paire.
There is no shame in losing to Goffin or Paire, particularly as Kecmanovic is just 19. It feels, with the major being on hard courts and the success that Kecmanovic has shown in recent tournaments, that this could be the major for the Serb to make his breakthrough. Of course, best-of-five is a different animal compared to best-of-three, but Kecmanovic certainly seems fit, and the match against Kudla at the French evidence, that long matches will not be an issue.
Kecmanovic’s draw sets him up well in the early-going of the tournament. He starts out the tournament by taking on Laslo Djere, a player who has played two, and lost two, hard court matches all summer. If he wins that he play the winner of Kevin Anderson and Zachary Svajda. Anderson is a former US Open finalist, losing to Nadal in 2019, but the South African has been battling injuries all season and had to withdraw , while Svajda is a relatively unheralded wild card entrant.
A third-round clash with Stan Wawrinka would then be likely. Whilst making this stage of a Slam would be a new accomplishment for Kecmanovic, the Serbian will surely be looking to make it further than the third round. And the level he has shown this summer suggests Kecmanovic could perhaps reach the second week of a Major soon. Whatever ends up happening at the US Open, Kecmanovic has had a breakthrough year. However, a career-best showing at the US Open would show he is taking the next step in his career.
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