Damir Dzumhur: Embracing his 'battle scars'

Tennis has been a soothing balm for quite a few of the Balkan States following the disorderly and at times ugly break up of the former Yugoslavia. One of the most painful events was the Bosnian war that erupted in early 1992.

Despite being born in the middle of a war, Dzumhur says his generation have outgrown those grim times.   -  S. R. Raghunathan

Tennis has been a soothing balm for quite a few of the Balkan States following the disorderly and at times ugly break up of the former Yugoslavia. One of the most painful events was the Bosnian war that erupted in early 1992.

Even as the other Balkan countries slowly started producing competitive tennis players, Bosnia and Herzegovina had to wait a bit to find its own star until Damir Dzumhur came along. The 24-year old was born one month into the Bosnian war in May 1992 in a hospital near the Zetra Olympic Hall that was destroyed in the war.

And it was in that Hall that Dzumhur took to tennis and became the first player from his country to be a part of the main draw of Grand Slam back in 2014.

Ranked 77 in the world, Dzumhur appeared in his maiden main draw appearance in Chennai on Monday but lost to Israel’s Dudi Sela in straight sets.

Despite being born during war-time, Dzumhur says his generation have outgrown those grim times. “It is 20 years since the war finished. I was really young so don't remember a lot. I think we have to look forward and not think about it.”

With better facilities in Belgrade, the 24-year old has moved to Serbia despite the latter’s role during the war. “I am now living in Belgrade and I don't see people in any other way. I just see how they are now. What happened was bad but it is in the past.”

Dzumhur believes Novak Djokovic has had a huge role on players in the region and has personally benefitted from interacting with the Serbian. “Djokovic is helping me and has so many things to say about tennis and the one who is pushing the players from Balkan. It was one country before and people are always close.”

Elaborating on his decision to move to Serbia, Dzumhur says, “Tennis in Bosnia is getting bigger because we now have two players (the other is Mirza Basic) in top 150. But I am not really happy with the situation with tennis. It is popular but not many kids want to be pros and there are not many good coaches or facilities. Without that it is tough to make good players.”

Though the support from the association has been minimal, he still hopes the next gen gets enough support seeing his success.

Child star

Dzumhur was a star even before he started succeeding in tennis as a child actor. Speaking about his career in front of the arclights, “Well we had some audition in school. I went for that since I liked and did not have many tournaments. I got selected for one movie. It was real fun and not a big deal for me. I had two more offers but by then I started with ITF futures and couldn't do both at the same time.”

Dzumhur, for now, is more popular as a tennis player and says he prefers it that way.