Bosnian tennis player Damir Dzumhur is confident that he will recover in time for his Australian Open round three match as he looks forward to clashing against tennis superstar and world No.1 Rafael Nadal. The Bosnian retired his Sydney International round-of-16 clash last week to eventual runner-up Alex de Minaur — didn’t practice for a couple of days as he was strictly nursing a leg injury.
The 25-year-old — who at the last minute decided to give a shot the Australian Open — won the last three sets of his first-round five-set win earned over Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi — before he saw off Australia’s John Millman in four sets on Wednesday.
“It was pretty warm and I got exhausted against Millman — but the motivation of playing against Nadal on Rod Laver Arena will be enough for me to recover and show my best tennis,” Dzumhur said. Dzumhur is one of the rare players on the Tour which has a positive record against Nadal.
The 28th-seeded Bosnian had a 2-6 6-4 3-0 lead against Nadal at the Miami Masters in 2016 when the Spaniard was forced to retire the match. “I don’t want to enter the match with a white flag — I want to enjoy and to try to do something,” Dzumhur added.
After an encouraging fortnight at Indian Wells and a semifinal finish, Rafael Nadal has reason to be optimistic as he begins his Miami Masters campaign against Damir Dzumhur on Saturday.
A strong finish to his troubled 2015 season and a promising start to 2016 when he made the final of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open were derailed for former world no. 1 Rafael Nadal when he lost in the first round of the Australian Open, and what should have been a confidence-building Golden Swing saw Nadal suffer consecutive semifinal defeats in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro to Dominic Thiem and Pablo Cuevas, underlining the fact that even on clay, Nadal is no longer the insurmountable obstacle he once appeared to be.
Two weeks at Indian Wells, where Nadal has won the title three times, should have done much for Nadal’s elusive confidence, however. Despite a roster of tough opponents who were occasionally inspired – big-serving Gilles Muller, Australian Open nemesis Fernando Verdasco and Alexander Zverev, who held match point on him – Nadal not only survived but flourished, reaching the semifinals. And although he lost 6-7(5), 2-6 to Novak Djokovic, Nadal and his fans will be justified in feeling that he played some of his finest tennis against Djokovic – the toughest test in men’s tennis for some time – in a long time. ‘I felt for a moment that I was competing at the highest level possible,’ Nadal said afterwards, adding that he felt a touch more confidence on his forehand would have made the difference in the first set (although the ease with which Djokovic was breaking his serve in the second seems like more of a problem).
‘But the way that I was playing I think was a little bit more tactical, was a little bit more the way that I need to play against Novak than what happened the last couple of times that we played so quick and hitting so hard the ball. Probably he’s better than nobody in terms of rhythm,’ Nadal said.
Nadal saw Djokovic go on to tie his record of 27 Masters 1000 Series titles when the world no. 1 defeated Milos Raonic in the Indian Wells title, but edging ahead of Djokovic in these particular standings would mean a lot less to Nadal than claiming his first Masters title since Madrid 2014 should he manage to win Miami for the first time.
Nadal owns a 35-10 overall record in Miami, where he has never had the success he has enjoyed at Indian Wells. His best results came in 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014, when he reached the final, losing to Roger Federer, Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Murray and Djokovic respectively, and he was ousted in the third round last year by familiar nemesis Verdasco (actually Nadal’s doubles partner this week, with whom the world no. 5 has already won a match). Safely in the other half of the draw from Djokovic and with neither Stan Wawrinka nor Murray shining at Indian Wells last week, Nadal might very much fancy his chances of at least reaching the final in Miami – and he will certainly fancy his chances against his second-round opponent Damir Dzumhur.
The world no. 94, who was the first male tennis player from Bosnia and Herzegovina to compete in the main draw of a Grand Slam, reached his career-high ranking of world no. 77 late last year after reaching the semifinals of the ATP World Tour event in Casablanca as well as recording a season of strong results on the Challenger circuit, winning titles in Santo Domingo, Alphen and Casablanca. Dzumhur is yet to win back-to-back matches in 2016 despite dropping down to play a Challenger last week after a first-round exit from Indian Wells (he lost in the second round of the Guadalajara Challenger to Adrian Menendez Maceiras), but he scored an excellent three-set win over Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in the first round to set up this second-round clash with Nadal – the sixth of his career against a top-10 player. It’s extremely unlikely he’ll get his first win.