Meet Damir Dzumhur. Can he challenge Roger Federer?

Damir Dzumhur Antalya Open
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After shaking the rust from his game in the first round against Sumit Nagal, Roger Federer comes up against the Bosnian #1 Damir Dzumhur.

But other than being Bosnian, what else is there to Dzumhur? And does he have what it takes to threaten the Swiss maestro?

Short but successful

It’s rare in the modern era to find a successful pro tennis player under 180cm tall, but Damir Dzumhur is one. Standing 1.75m (5’9″), it is understandable that his serve isn’t his greatest weapon; but even so, his skill on quick surfaces has been the backbone to his success.

Since turning pro in 2011, Dzumhur enjoyed a steady rise up the rankings, winning ITF and Challenger events in both doubles and singles. However, he hit a purple patch of form in the second half of the 2017 season.

Dzumhur’s annus mirabilis

This form began with another Challenger Tour win on the clay in Blois in June, he then followed up with another final appearance on the green clay of Santo Domingo in August, losing to Dominican hometown hero Victor Estrella Burgos.

Unlike previous successes at Challenger level, however, Dzumhur was able to translate this into success on the main ATP tour. The week after the Santo Domingo final he made the final of the ATP250 tournament in Winston-Salem, losing a tight final to Roberto Bautista Agut.

That was only the first of three finals in consecutive months as Dzumhur’s maiden ATP title followed in September on the indoor hard courts of St. Petersburg, beating Fabio Fognini in three sets to become the first-ever player to win a tournament under the flag of Bosnia & Herzegovina on the ATP tour. He followed that up with another indoor victory in Moscow the next month, beating Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis, again in three sets.

By the end of 2017, Damir Dzumhur found himself ranked inside the top 30 players in the world for the first time.

Highest ranking and subsequent malaise

His highest ever singles ranking came during 2018 when he won the Antalya Open on grass in Turkey. He defeated Adrian Mannarino in a bizarre final that went 6-1, 1-6, 6-1, after which he earned a ranking of #23. This would be the nadir of his career thus far though.

2019 has been a very difficult year for the 27-year-old Bosnian. He has been dogged by slight injuries and niggles, and never seems to be fully fit and firing. This season’s results show that Dzumhur currently has a losing record in singles matches and a ranking that has now dropped to #104.

How can he challenge Roger Federer?

In previous meetings with the great Swiss the answer has been: he can’t.

Both meetings have occurred at Grand Slam level, but both four years ago in 2015. Dzumhur didn’t manage to get more than four games in a set in those two encounters, but this was before his coming-of-age on tour.

The Bosnian is an excellent counter-puncher, able to take the pace of an opponent and use it against him. He will be able to pick off passing shots if Federer comes to the net, with groundstrokes on both wings. Dzumhur himself is also adept at the front of the court, as his titles on indoor and grass courts, along with his doubles experience, will testify to.

As we always say in tennis, once you’re out on court anything is possible. Dzumhur has achieved more in the game now than he had the last time he faced across the net from Federer so that should give him more confidence. We shall see later on today if that will be enough for a shock result at Flushing Meadows.

Main Photo from Getty.