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Djokovic's absence helps his fellow Serb at Australian Open

Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia plays a backhand return to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy. (AP)
Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia plays a backhand return to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy. (AP)

Having avoided a formidable first-round round clash against Djokovic, Kecmanovic has put together three straight wins to reach the fourth round



By AP/AFP

Published: Fri 21 Jan 2022, 7:15 PM

Novak Djokovic’s absence from the Australian Open has created opportunities for a fellow Serb, Miomir Kecmanovic.

Having avoided what would have been a formidable first-round round assignment against the nine-time champion, the 22-year-old Kecmanovic has put together three straight wins to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

The Belgrade native’s confidence soared after beating Salvatore Caruso — the so-called lucky loser from qualifying who was elevated to the main draw after Djokovic’s deportation — then Tommy Paul and 25th-seeded Lorenzo Sonego to earn a shot at No. 17-seeded Gael Monfils.

“It’s unbelievable,” Kecmanovic said on Friday. “A week ago I was supposed to play the world No. 1 and didn’t have much of a chance there, but now I’m in the last 16.

“So I’m happy that I was able to use this chance and that I’ve been playing some really good tennis.”

He won only a handful of games when he played Djokovic in the Serbia Open last year and wasn’t expecting a lot more when the Australian Open draw was made last week.

Djokovic was deported on the eve of the tournament for not meeting Australia’s strict Covid-19 vaccination requirements, giving Kecmanovic an opener against a player ranked in the 140s instead of No. 1.

“I didn’t have much pressure just because I felt that I got a second chance, so I just wanted to use it the best that I can,” he said. “I’ve obviously been showing that well up until now.”

Kecmanovic said he had not been in contact with compatriot Djokovic, who is back in Serbia after his deportation over his anti-vaccination status.

“I think he’s still recovering from everything and I didn’t really want to bother him. Give him his space. I’ll definitely talk to him eventually after things calm down,” he said.

Kecmanovic had never previously ventured past the second round at a Grand Slam event, so now he’s guaranteed his biggest payday with at least 328,000 Australian dollars ($240,000) in prize money so far.

Kecmanovic needed nearly 3 1/2 hours to see off Sonego 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-2, 7-5, but the 35-year-old Monfils, his next rival, needed just two hours No. 16 Cristian Garin 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-3.


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