Dzumhur gets Djokovic thumbs-up

Damir Dzumhur leaves the tournament with his head held high (AP)

Damir Dzumhur leaves the tournament with his head held high (AP)

First published in National Sport News © by

Damir Dzumhur's dream run is over at the Australian Open but he will leave Melbourne with encouragement from the sport's best ringing in his ears.

The 21-year-old came through qualifying to become the first player ever to represent Bosnia in the main draw of a grand slam.

And Dzumhur did not stop there, beating Jan Hajek in the first round and then reaching round three when his Croatian opponent Ivan Dodig was so incapacitated by cramp that he had to retire.

That win earned Dzumhur a match on Melbourne Park's second stadium, Hisense Arena, against seventh seed Tomas Berdych.

He matched his illustrious opponent for much of the first set but, once Berdych broke serve in the 10th game, the Czech was not in any danger, running out a 6-4 6-2 6-2 winner.

Dzumhur said: "There was all the crowd, a big stadium, which I'd never played on before, so it was a big opportunity for me and I hope I used it. I know I couldn't play my best because I was a bit stressed but definitely I hope the people who watched enjoyed the match."

Speaking on court, Berdych said he thought Dzumhur had a promising future, while one of the first people the beaten Bosnian spoke to when he came off court was reigning champion Novak Djokovic.

"He said congratulations and definitely you will have these matches more and more," said Dzumhur.

"He's definitely someone I've looked up to, he's one of the best players in the history of tennis and his words mean a lot to me. I'm proud of that.

"He told me that one day he hopes he will play against me and he will see me in the big tournaments again.

"They were nice words from Tomas, too, and thanks to him. I hope I will use this and definitely I will work more and work hard to get that nice future."

The only other time Dzumhur had met Serbian Djokovic was as a 16-year-old when he was playing in a junior tournament and Djokovic was competing at the Monte Carlo Masters.

"Maybe he remembers but I'm not sure, I remember very well," said Dzumhur with a smile.

It is safe to say that Melbourne will remember Dzumhur, who will climb from 188th in the rankings into the top 150.

The qualifier received raucous support from a group of local Bosnians, who sang songs and, during his match against Dodig, even played an accordion.

"The Bosnians in Melbourne were absolutely fantastic," said Dzumhur. "Even today, on such a big court, they were so loud. They will definitely be in my heart because they won my heart. I am really proud of them."

He has been making headlines at home as well, providing an unexpectedly great start to a year that will see Bosnia's national football team make their debut at the World Cup finals.

Dzumhur said: "Some of the newspapers and TV stations called me after the match. They said the whole of Bosnia didn't sleep tonight, that everybody was in front of their TV and they were so proud.

"Nobody did it before and they don't know if anybody can repeat it. They hope that I will do it again."

Next up for Berdych will be a fourth-round clash with South Africa's Kevin Anderson, who fought back from two sets down for the second straight match to defeat France's Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

It will be the third straight time the pair have met in Australia and the fifth time in nine grand slams, with Anderson yet to win.

Third seed David Ferrer continued his smooth progress through the draw, although the Spaniard had to save three set points in the second set on his way to a 6-2 7-6 (7/5) 6-2 win over France's Jeremy Chardy.

It was the end of the road, though, for 20th seed Jerzy Janowicz, who lost 7-5 6-2 6-2 to Florian Mayer of Germany.

Janowicz then revealed he has been playing with a broken bone in his foot against the advice of his doctor.

The Pole was not able to practise during the off season, and he said: "Today I was completely kaput."

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