Two battles of the baselines produced two semifinal opponents during the New York Open’s Friday afternoon matches at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. There was a strong youthful component as well.
Miomir Kecmanovic, 20, defeated 21-year-old Ugo Humbert, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. Afterward, Kyle Edmund, 25, rallied to beat 22-year-old Soonwoo Kwon, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5). Kecmanovic and Edmund will play each other for the very first time on Saturday.
Kecmanovic, a Serbian who plays out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, is ranked 54th in the world with his eyes looking straight up at the top players in the game. He has a long way to go to reach the heights of countryman and mentor Novak Djokovic, but there definitely are similarities in their games. Solid defense along the baseline, a dependable return of serve and penetrating groundstrokes earned him the win over Frenchman Humbert, himself an up-and-comer.
“The guy was playing really well, he was hitting everything that you can imagine,” Kecmanovic said. “I just try to get one more ball back every time, make him play that one extra shot, try to make him miss, get him nervous.
"Try to hit deep on every shot, penetrate the court; it helped me get some shorter balls, easier balls that I could take and go on the offense.”
Kecmanovic was spotted by an International Management Group agent while playing an under-14 tournament in Moscow. He signed with the agency and moved to Florida in 2013 at the age of 13. “It was a good move,” said Kecmanovic, who is one of five Serbian players ranked 54th or better.
His career got a jump start last season when he was a lucky loser at the Indian Wells tournament. He lost in the second round of qualifying but got into the tournament when another player pulled out. He reached the quarterfinals before losing to Milos Raonic.
Edmund is ranked 62nd, but once was ranked as high 14th until a left knee injury in early in 2019. He’s clawing his way back and was able to assert his aggressive game in the crucial moments against the impressive Kwon. After playing in India last week, Kwon of South Korea came here and won two matches, taking out the second-seeded Raonic in the second round.
“He’s got confidence from last week,” Edmund said. “To have someone come from India and play good tennis straightaway, beating Milos, shows he’s in a good place.”
Edmund is getting himself into a better place. He pulled himself together after losing a first set in which he was up 2-0 and 40-15.
"It sort of turned from there,” Edmund said. “I thought he was getting bit more of the points, a little bit better of the rallies. I was battling but he was dictating a little bit too much for my liking. In second [set] I just said I have to get on top of him here. I have a big game but I wasn’t using it as well as I could. As the second set went along [I got control].”
The recovery from the knee injury is as much about the mental aspect of the game as it is about the physical. Restoring confidence is paramount, and Edmund seems to be replenishing the tank.
“Both of us were playing aggressive tennis,” Edmund said. “He was brave, his backhand was very good today. Either of us didn’t do a lot wrong. It was a good match. I played aggressively and I think I got rewarded for it in the end.”
Notes & quotes:
Players have mentioned the slowness of the black courts here. Kyle Edmund offers this explanation: “The court is slow, it’s got a lot of sand in it. It’s quite gritty. You can see how much tennis fur there is every day on the court because the balls are getting chopped up, losing their fur. The balls become big, they become heavier. When the new balls are in play they zip off the court but they very quickly slow up.”