04:13 PM GMT March 11, 2020
Miro Hrvatin has mentored #NextGenATP Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic for more than a decade, helping the former junior star rapidly climb the FedEx ATP Rankings. The Croatian spoke to ATPTour.com about how their relationship has developed, what Kecmanovic needs to focus on, what off-season training with stars including Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer is like, and more.
What are your biggest priorities with Miomir?
I think that this year, he’s stepping closer to the baseline. He’s more into the court, he’s much more aggressive. His serve went up [a level], and I think that’s the main thing we want to keep pushing. It is trying to play deep balls and stay close to the baseline, taking time away. That’s not a one-day job, but that’s something that we will try to make better this season.
He said that practising with top players during the off-season, he learned a lot from them about taking time away, taking the ball early to push the point a little bit. How important is that to add to his game?
I think that’s the crucial thing, because everybody knows how to play forehands and backhands. But once you take time away from them, things start to be different. We were lucky this pre-season and last pre-season we had really good pre-season camps and good players. Some of the best players in the world were there.
Practising with them, they are showing you the path where you want to go, what you have to do, and what you have to work on.
How priceless is it that he spent an off-season with Dominic, this past off-season with Novak and so forth?
I think that’s the biggest thing you can get. Last year in Tenerife with Gunter Bresnik and with Dominic Thiem and all the guys over there like David Goffin and Jan-Lennard Struff, it was perfect. And this year was even more perfect.
You had Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Karen Khachanov... you cannot buy that practice. You cannot find it anywhere else except playing with those guys. For me and for him, I think it’s one of the best things he can get.
How did he approach that? Was he simply excited?
He’s always excited when playing with Novak of course and Roger. He still didn’t hit with Nadal, but that’s something that we are working on. He likes to compete, and then once he has one of the best players on the other side, then he’s always giving his maximum. I believe that is something that raises your level.
Is taking it early a footwork thing, getting used to the timing? What’s the key?
I think it’s a combination, plus I think it’s the player who needs to be mentally aggressive. It’s something that I think is not only one thing. Footwork is very important, but then the timing is different if you are coming closer to the ball. All together, I think it takes time to fit into place.
But that’s the thing that they’re all doing. You don’t have time while playing with the best players in the world. If you give them a short ball, you are dead. You lost the point, that’s it. Very simple.
What's something people should know about Miomir outside of tennis?
He likes high adrenaline, that I know. He likes to jump skydiving, he’s done that. That’s something that he enjoyed a lot. I would not jump from there, not for a million dollars. He’s doing that very easy, very simple. He likes those adrenaline things, so I think that helps him playing tennis because tennis is always under pressure. So I think for him it’s easier because he’s doing that.
You’ve known Miomir for a long, long time, more than a majority of coaches work with their players. How does that add to your working relationship with him, knowing him for so long?
I’ve known him since he was eight or nine, when we had a couple of practice sessions. Then I lived in Pula, Croatia, so he came back there for the summer every year until he went to the United States. In three or four years, we started our relationship.
As long as you know somebody, I think it’s good. If you know them longer, I think it could help. For me, sometimes, if you spend too much time together, it could go the other way. But for us at the moment, it’s still a good relationship with a lot of respect. We are working hard, so it’s good.
How different is that little Miomir you met 12, 13 years ago, compared to how he is now?
Some parts of him are the same, but of course he grew up a lot and he’s much more professional now, even though at that time he was very focussed and very determined with his goals. Some things changed, some stayed the same.
What’s the biggest thing that has changed?
The process, just growing up. When you are a small kid, you compete to win. But getting older, I think winning becomes more and more important.
When you first saw Miomir when he was a kid, if I had told you he’d be where he is now, what would you have said?
He was really young when I first saw him. But his technique was very solid. I would say he didn’t change a lot, especially the groundstrokes. Serve, yes, but the groundstrokes were very solid, even at that time. Every player and every coach dreams to be Top 10 or No. 1. You need to put a lot of work in, a lot of effort, and get a little bit of luck.
How high is his ceiling?
We go step by step. I think there are things that we have to work on and if he improves one thing by one, I think we can make some steps forward even this year.
He was a very highly touted junior, but not every junior makes it all the way to the top of the sport, so how nice has this smooth climb been to start his pro career?
It’s a lot of working and Misha wants that, so he’s willing to work for it. He’s fighting for it. We are fighting for it together with all the team, everybody around him, with the family and everybody. I think it’s going in a good direction, luckily.
There are some coaches who have worked with many players. Miomir is your first big experience on the ATP Tour. What has that journey been like?
I enjoy it a lot and I love tennis and I love challenges. When he’s winning, of course, everybody is happy, and I’m the most happy. But sometimes if you have a bad period, the thing is challenging us, 'Let’s see if we could do something to make it back on track.' I love it.
What should people know about Miomir off the tennis court?
He’s all in tennis! He is very focussed on his goals and I think one of the reasons that he’s here, it’s that he’s very focussed, very determined to achieve those goals that he has in his mind.