Believe it or not, 130th-ranked Miomir Kecmanovic is the last Serb standing at the ATP Indian Wells Masters, proving that a little luck can go a long way.
“I did not see that coming, not at all,” said the 19-year-old from Belgrade as he found himself the only one of five Serbs in the men’s main draw to reach the last eight.
That’s a group headed, of course, by world number one and five-time Indian Wells champion Novak Djokovic, who crashed out in the third round.
“It will be funny, that somebody other than Novak is still in,” Kecmanovic said.
Kecmanovic wasn’t even supposed to be in the field, after falling short in pre-tournament qualifying. But he gained entry to the second round when an elbow injury forced fifth seed Kevin Anderson out and the 19-year-old has taken it from there.
He became the first lucky loser to reach the last eight at Indian Wells since the ATP’s Masters 1000 series began in 1990 when Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka retired with an injury from their fourth round match.
Kecmanovic had won the first set 6-4 when 74th-ranked Nishioka, who received treatment on his back in a bid to carry on, called a halt.
“Obviously it’s tough to see your opponent retire like that, but I’m still happy that I managed to get to the quarters,” said Kecmanovic, who gave a disappointed Nishioka a consolatory hug at the net.
“I’m happy that I used this opportunity that I got.”
Kecmanovic, will will face 13th-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals, has been working to create more opportunities to achieve his goal of finishing the year in the top 100.
He spent time training in Tenerife with Austrian Dominic Thiem, German Jan-Lennard Struff and Latvian Ernests Gulbis prior to the season, a stint he said opened his eyes to the quality of work needed to contend on the ATP tour.
“A lot more intense,” he said of the experience, compared to his usual off-season training. “I didn’t know that’s what they were going for. That definitely opened my eyes to see how much more I have to work to get where I want to be.”
Against Nishioka, Kecmanovic said, he knew early on that something was troubling his opponent, who asked to see a trainer after just three games. “Then when I broke him the fist time, that’s when I really saw, like, OK, something is wrong with him.”
Kecmanovic was in his post-match press conference when he learned he’d been granted a wildcard into the Miami Masters.
With that new piece of good news, Kecmanovic thought he might see if his luck would stretch beyond the tennis court, and pick up a lottery ticket.
“I’m going to get a ticket,” he said, “because this is just nice.”