Djokovic's absence helps his fellow Serb at Australian Open
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — 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 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 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, the 35-year-old Monfils needed just two hours No. 16 Cristian Garin 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-3.