Free-Swinging Kecmanovic Through To Second Straight Eastbourne Quarterfinal

Miomir Kecmanovic (photo: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for LTA)

EASTBOURNE/WASHINGTON, June 26, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Miomir Kecmanovic reached his 28th career ATP Tour quarterfinal – but just the third on grass – with a quality win over a Top 20 opponent Wednesday afternoon at the Rothesay International in Eastbourne, on the southeast coast of England.

The 53rd-ranked Kecmanovic of Serbia defeated World No. 18 and fourth seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina, 6-3, 6-2, in 69 minutes on Centre Court at Devonshire Park to advance to his second consecutive last eight in Eastbourne. It was his third Top-20 triumph of the season and 15th win overall in 32 tour-level matches.

“It’s a good feeling to be able to play this well and to be able to beat such a good guy,” Kecmanovic said in his on-court interview. “I’m really happy about it and hopefully it will continue.”

The 24-year-old Serbian No. 3, ranked behind Novak Djokovic (World No. 2) and Laslo Djere (ranked 52nd), put together a solid performance that included eight aces and 19 winners overall while committing just five unforced errors. He converted four of seven break points and outpointed Baez 59-44.

“Grass is just special, you know, in general. It’s not easy to play on it, but if you hit big – swing freely – it’s easier to get a rhythm,” said Kecmanovic, who earlier in the week upset No. 33 Zhang Zhizhen of China in the first round. “Luckily, I feel good on this surface. Hopefully, it can keep going that way.”

Max Purcell

Max Purcell (photo: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for LTA)

Next, Kecmanovic will oppose 94th-ranked Australian qualifier Max Purcell, who struck 27 winners and defeated No. 57 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, 6-4, 6-4, in an hour and 28 minutes on Court 5.

Purcell outpointed Sonego 67-55 to advance to his second Eastbourne quarterfinal following his 2021 run.

Zhang reaches first quarterfinal on grass

As the youngest player competing in the Eastbourne men’s draw at 19, Shang Juncheng of China – just call him “Jerry” after the Tom & Jerry cartoon character – is playing mature tennis well above his age by combining power with finesse. That’s a positive combination that will serve him well in the future.

After defeating No. 88 Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, coming from a set down to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, in two hours and six minutes on Court 1, Shang is through to his first tour-level quarterfinal on grass.  It’s his second overall quarterfinal after advancing to the last eight in Hong Kong.

Against Ruusuvuori, Shang fired eight aces, won 77 percent of his first-set points, hit 31 winners to 14 unforced errors and outpointed his foe 89-85. He’s looked impressive all week in Eastbourne.

“Playing in front of this amazing crowd and with beautiful weather, I’m really enjoying this week,” Shung said during his on-court interview. Asked to describe why he’s been successful this week in Eastbourne, Shang said: “I don’t think I changed much. Emil is a very complete player and he can do anything on the court very solidly. I thought if he plays better than me, this is it; I’m going to keep playing my tennis. It ended up working really well. Im glad I made it through.”

The 104th-ranked #NextGenATP rising star earned a career-high ranking of No. 89 last month, becoming the first Chinese teenager to break inside Top 100 in PIF ATP Rankings history (since 1973). Now, with back-to-back wins in Eastbourne after defeating No. 7 seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina in the first round, Shang next will face World No. 13 and top seed Taylor Fritz of the United States.

When Shang was asked how he would prepare for his Thursday quarterfinal, he smiled at the question and quipped: “Let’s go step by step. After today’s match, a good recovery. I’ve played a couple of days in a row now. So, I’ll try not to think about tennis too much. I might go to the beach for a walk and enjoy the weather and let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Fritz defeated No. 74 Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil, 7-6 (4), 6-3, in 74 minutes on Centre Court. He hit 25 winners — including 15 aces — and outpointed his opponent 67-48. Twice an Eastbourne champion (2019, 2022), Fritz is through to back-to-back quarterfinals on grass following Queen’s Club last week.

“Both years I won here, I came into the tournament not having won matches, not having played well. I know no matter what I can come here and start feeling good,” Fritz said in his on-court interview. “It gives me a lot of confidence. Winning two matches last week was my best result at Queen’s, but I wasn’t super happy with the last match I played. So, I still want to play better.”

Around Devonshire Park

• British wild card Billy Harris advanced to his second straight ATP Tour quarterfinals with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 comeback win over 185th-ranked lucky loser Charles Broom of Great Britain in two hours and four minutes on Court 2. The 139th-ranked Harris avenged a straight-set loss semifinal loss to Broom earlier this month at the Nottingham Challenger by hitting 27 winners and converting five of 15 break-point chances in their first tour-level meeting. He advanced to the quarterfinals of the cinch Championships at Queen’s Club in west London last week.

Next, Harris will face No. 49 Flavio Cobolli of Italy, who came from behind to defeat 359th-ranked lucky loser Giles Hussey of Great Britain, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, in one hour and 51 minutes on Court 5. Cobolli hit 28 winners to 18 unforced errors and outpointed Hussey 87-79.

• Qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan reached the quarterfinals with a 6-7 (8), 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 46 Marcos Giron of the United States in two hours and 11 minutes on Court 5. The 102nd-ranked Nishioka beat Giron for the second time in three career meetings on the strength of hitting 36 winners and outpointing the American 98-84.

Next, Nishioka will play 81st-ranked lucky loser Aleksandar Vukic of Australia, who upset No. 3 seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, ranked 23rd, 6-4, 6-4, in 65 minutes. Vukic struck 24 winners and saved all three break points he face. He has not dropped a set in his first two matches, which included an earlier win over No. 45 Fabian Marozsan of Hungary. The 28-year-old from Sydney is through to his second grass-court quarterfinal in three weeks following his last eight run at ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Wednesday’s Eastbourne results

Thursday’s Eastbourne order of play

By the numbers

Taylor Fritz aims to become the first three-time Eastbourne champion in tournament history. He is tied with Jonas Bjorkman, Richard Gasquet, Ivo Karlovic, Feliciano Lopez and Greg Rusedski for most Eastbourne titles with two.

“Quotable …”

“I really didn’t know much about Mariano but I knew that he’s played on clay so I thought if I can come out here and just swing and open my shots and try and push him. Luckily it all paid off.

“I came out and was feeling nervous and that first game I held to love settled me down, through the rest of the match I was just trying to focus on my breathing.”

— Lucky loser Giles Hussey of Great Britain, during his on-court interview following his upset of World No. 32 and sixth seed Mariano Navone of Argentina on Tuesday.