Aleksandar Kovacevic stuns Miomir Kecmanovic in ATP Tour debut in Seoul
Aleksandar Kovacevic's second chance led to a monumental first. Entered in the Eugene Korea Open Tennis Championships in Seoul as a lucky loser, the 24-year-old American defeated No. 7 seed Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of the ATP 250 event on Monday in his first-ever main draw match at an ATP Tour tournament.
Kovacevic broke the world No. 32 three times in a 93-minute opening round stunner. He's entered this week at a world ranking of No. 222, and never before faced a player ranked in the Top 50 before Kecmanovic. He recently concluded his first year as a professional after graduating from the University of Illinois,
“[It is] a little bit surreal,” Kovacevic said after the match, as per the ATP website. “I watch these matches on TV every day. I consider a lot of these guys my peers and I feel like I’m playing at a pretty good level, but just being out there in an ATP event in the main draw. … I thought that I needed a little more experience, to be honest, before I did well."
Kovacevic had, in fact, only played eight tournaments off U.S. soil in his young career so far before taking the trip to Seoul, but he already had a statement run as an underdog this year. He reached his first career final at an ATP Challenger in Indianapolis in August; getting into that tournament as an on-site alternate, he beat players including Stefan Kozlov and Ben Shelton before losing in the final to former US Open junior champion Wu Yibing in a titanic 6–7(10), 7–6(13), 6–3 final.
Against Kecmanovic, Kovacevic saved three break points in the opening game and stayed even with the second-highest ranking Serbian in the world rankings. He saved another break point at 1-1, and later made Kecmanovic rue his missed chances; Kovacevic broke serve for the first time to wrap up the opening set. He saved five more break points to start the second set, though he ultimately had to come from 4-2 down to wrap victory up in straights.
“I played really well out there," Kovacevic said. "There’s something about big matches for me. For Miomir, this is obviously not a huge moment because he’s been here for a while, but for me it is a big deal, so it brings out some of my best tennis.
"[I’m] really glad for this one, but hoping to continue it during the week. Definitely happy to get this first one, but not fully satisfied yet.”
Kovacevic says he has plans to spend the next three weeks in the country playing ATP Challenger tournaments after his week is Seoul's complete. He'll next face Tseng Chun-hsin for a spot in the quarterfinals.
"I kind of came here to get myself a little bit out of my comfort zone, and that’s exactly what these past few days has been," he said.
"I came down with a cold the first day I was here and been trying to accustom myself to the conditions and sleep and all that. But South Korea is amazing, I’ve been loving it. I’m here for four weeks, I’ve committed to doing that, and I couldn’t be happier right now.”