Novak Djokovic's vaccine controversy in Australia helped one young player score the biggest payday of his career

Novak Djokovic's vaccine controversy in Australia helped one young player score the biggest payday of his career
Miomir Kecmanovic plays a backhand in the third round of the Australian Open.AP Photo/Tertius Pickard
  • Miomir Kecmanovic was supposed to play Novak Djokovic in the first round of the Australian Open.
  • After Djokovic dropped out of the tournament, Kecmanovic has made it through to the fourth round.

Miomir Kecmanovic wasn't planning for an extended stay at the Australian Open.

When the men's draw was released, Kecmanovic, ranked 77th in the world, was set to face his fellow Serbian, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, in the first round.

Djokovic has won the Australian Open nine times in his career and entered 2022 as the three-time reigning champion of the tournament. He has not lost in the first round of a grand slam since 2006, and Kecmanovic had never made it further than the second round at any grand slam event.

But before the tournament could begin, Djokovic was forced to drop out after an extended struggle regarding his visa to enter Australia due to his COVID-19 vaccination status.

As the fracas surrounding Djokovic's time in international limbo consumed the tennis world, Kecmanovic was left with a new opponent to start his run at the Australian Open.


Rather than Djokovic, Kecmanovic faced off against "lucky loser" Salvatore Caruso, who entered the tournament as an alternate in Djokovic's spot. The 22-year-old Kecmanovic advanced in straight sets.

After the win, Kecmanovic sympathized with his countryman Djokovic, saying it was unfortunate that the two could not have their match.

But since that first win, Kecmanovic has continued to make the most of his somewhat complicated bit of good fortune, securing two more wins in the subsequent rounds to advance to the final 16, the best performance of his career at a grand slam to date.

In reaching the fourth round, Kecmanovic also secured a prize of at least $237,000, the biggest payday of his professional career thus far.

Kecmanovic was pretty open about the bit of luck that began his run at the tournament.


"A week ago, I was supposed to play the world No. 1 and didn't have much of a chance there," Kecmanovic said, per ESPN. "But now I'm in the last 16, so I'm happy that I was able to use this chance and that I've been playing some really good tennis."

"I didn't have much pressure just because I felt that I got a second chance," Kecmanovic said. "So I just wanted to use it the best that I can.

While Kecmanovic's run is already a career-best, there's no reason for him to stop now.

Kecmanovic could add another $150,000 to his already substantial winnings with a win over Gael Monfils in the next round.