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Dzumhur Making History In Melbourne
by Kate Flory|
World No. 188 Damir Dzumhur is making history at the Australian Open, and the Bosnian contingent at Melbourne Park is more than making sure that the 21 year old’s progress doesn’t go unnoticed.
The raucous crowd was Dzumhur’s self-proclaimed “second player” on Wednesday as he reached the third round when Ivan Dodig succumbed to cramps in the soaring temperatures Down Under. It was the Sarajevo native’s fifth win in a historic nine days, which has seen him become the first Bosnian to qualify for a Grand Slam and then power through to a third-round meeting with Tomas Berdych.
“I was lucky today,” said Dzumhur. “I always said, when you’re trying to get to the Top 100, Top 150, you need to be lucky a little bit. It’s a huge day for me, really. I still cannot believe that I’m in the third round of the Australian Open.”
It is a feat equal in national popularity to the Bosnian football team’s recent qualification into its first World Cup in Brasil this year. “The reaction at home when I qualified was incredible,” said Dzumhur. “It’s the early hours of the morning in Bosnia [when I play], but the people aren’t sleeping. Luckily [against Dodig] they had a live stream, so they could watch me. But even without that, they were up all night watching the live scoreboard. When I finished the match, there were hundreds of messages.
“It’s a big thing for Bosnia. It’s like the football team, who qualified for the World Cup in Brasil for the first time. That was huge, and this can compare.”
The rollercoaster ride of the Australian Open is a far cry from Dzumhur’s war-torn beginnings. Two weeks after he was born in Sarajevo, the Bosnian War began. “Until 1996 there was a war in Bosnia. It was destroyed,” said Dzumhur. “Even today, we have only one normal hard court in the whole of Sarajevo. It was made this year. Before then, I was practising on some surfaces that don’t even exist in tennis. So it was really tough, especially at the start.
“I was lucky that my father was a coach, he had a club. I started playing with him. I really loved tennis, nobody was pushing me. I think that was the most important thing. I was playing with my whole heart.”
One hard court does not a Top 100 player make, though. And so it is that Dzumhur is searching for a new training base, with professional facilities and a high standard of practice partners. He spent time in the off-season training in Italy with Alberto Castalini, who has previously worked with Ivo Karlovic and Rainer Schuettler.
And now, reaching the third round of a major opens a lot of doors, not least financially. Dzumhur has previously coped with the expense of travelling on tour with backing from his parents and two sponsors, one in the U.S.A. and one in Bosnia. He is now guaranteed to take home at least A$75,000.
That, plus the projected rise in his Emirates ATP Ranking, will certainly make scheduling easier for Dzumhur moving forward as he looks to break into the Top 100.
“The fear of playing qualifying was you play three matches, you get tired, then you don’t get anything, enough points or money. But this tournament here will change everything, definitely. I was trying to play good and I knew that if you play good, all [the money] will come. Finally that day came when I can say I earned enough to cover my expenses for the rest of the year.
“This is going to really help me now for the rest of the season. I have to choose really smart tournaments. I think I have a good chance now to get into the Top 100 this year. Before the season, I said I wanted to be Top 150. But I’m already there after reaching the second round here. This is the tournament that I will always remember and I just can’t explain how happy I am right now.”
As well as making a name for himself on the ATP World Tour during the Australian Open, Dzumhur has also had the chance to be around his childhood heroes in the locker room.
“My favourite player, when I was really young, was Patrick Rafter,” he said. “I liked what he wore, his shorts and t-shirts, the sunblock. He had such good volleys and was a fighter and everything. Then when he stopped, my favourite was Roger Federer. I don’t think there’s anybody who doesn’t like the way he plays. He’s just unbelievable. I like how he acts on the court and off it. Federer has been my idol for the past 10 years. I hope there will be the chance to play against him, just to experience that.”
The way he’s travelling, it surely won’t be long before Dzumhur gets his chance.