Dzumhur (BIH) makes tennis history
Originally published on 15/01/14
The Australian Open often throws up surprise winners and brings to the fore national loyalties. That is partly down to the tournament's timing so soon after the off season, but also to its geography, given the diverse ethnicity of the population.
On Wednesday it was the turn of Bosnia and Herzegovina to take its place under the spotlight thanks to Dzumhur, who became the first player from his country to make it to the third round of a Grand Slam.
Dzumhur currently has a world ranking of 188. He came through qualifying to take his place in the main draw and on Monday defeated the Czech player Jan Hajek in straight sets. On Wednesday Dzumhur was on Court 13 against the No.32 seed, Ivan Dodig. Dzumhur is from Bosnia Herzegovina and Ivan Dodig represents Croatia, but the two men are friends.
The 21-year-old Dzumhur lost the first two sets and won the third before Ivan Dodig retired when trailing 4-1 in the fourth set with a back problem and body cramps.
A place in the third round of the first Grand Slam of the year was Dzumhur’s. When he came to a press conference after the match he was a little surprised to find six journalists waiting for him. He was becoming a big story. He is used to playing on the Challenger tour, where even a few spectators make an unusual sight.
Speaking about the great vocal support he received from Bosnian supporters in the crowd, Dzumhur said: “I don’t know if anybody saw the spectators, but if you just see them you just feel them. I feel unbelievable because I’m Bosnian. They were unbelievable on the court, just fantastic, cheering all the time. They were just my second player on the court, next to me”.
The crowd were cheering their man from Bosnia against his opponent from Croatia. In 1995, following the break-up of Yugoslavia, the two countries were at war.
“Dodig was a Bosnian player,” Dzumhur said. “He played Davis Cup four or five years ago [for Bosnia]. He switched to Croatia. I think that’s what they knew so they were pushing more and cheering more.”
Tennis courts are hard to find in Dzumhur’s home city of Sarajevo. During the war, as the player said, “everything was destroyed”. He added: “Even today we have only one normal hard court in the whole of Sarajevo. That court was built this year.”
Dzumhur’s father, who is a tennis coach, introduced him to the sport. “My favourite player when I was really young was Patrick Rafter,” he said. He added that he was not just saying that because he was here in Australia. Now, however, he is an admirer of Roger Federer and hopes he may have the opportunity to play against the former world No.1 one day.
If Dzumhur is going to achieve that dream here, he will have a tough path. Awaiting him in the third round is the No. 7 seed, Tomas Berdych, who has not dropped a set in the first two rounds.
Win or lose that match, Dzumhur has already banked a few dollars that will help him with the next stage of his career. Funded by two sponsors and prior to that his parents, he knows that his win here today is significant both financially and from a rankings point of view. “This is going to really help me for the rest of the season” he said. “Finally this day came when I say that I earned enough to cover a season or to cover all the expenses for the rest of the year.”
You can also be sure that the crowds will be out for him on Friday for this match. “They told me that on Friday it will be even better,” he said, “ I don’t know if they can be better than this. They are definitely the best for me. I think they are the loudest in Melbourne Park.”
Back in Sarajevo they will also be glued to their screens. His second round match was streamed from the court. “When I finished the match I got hundreds and hundreds of messages,” he said. “It’s a big thing for Bosnia. It’s like the football players who qualified for the World cup in Brazil for the first time. That was huge and this is what people compare it with.”