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Tennis: Bosnia's new star Dzumhur looks to the horizon

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Bosnia and Herzegovina can sleep again after Damir Dzumhur's fairytale run came to an end after an exhilarating week at the Australian Open on Friday.

The 188th-ranked Dzumhur, the first man from the tiny Balkan state to play in a Grand Slam event, lost to world number seven Tomas Berdych in straight sets in the third round.

Urged on by the vociferous chanting of local Bosnians, the 21-year-old Dzumhur captivated fans back home, watching on overnight broadcasts, with his tireless retrieving as he reached the last 32.

Dzumhur had won five straight matches to make it to the third round after three qualifiers and main-draw wins over Jan Hajek and Ivan Dodig.

But the run ended against Berdych with the big-serving Czech winning 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in one hour 45 minutes on Hisense Arena.

Whatever the outcome, Dzumhur had put Bosnia and Herzegovina on the tennis map in the year in which their national football team will play at the World Cup for the first time in Brazil.

Dzumhur was swamped with congratulations after match point, led by six-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic from neighbouring Serbia.

"Just after the match I spoke with Novak and he said to me congratulations and told me I would definitely have more of these matches," Dzumhur told reporters.

"Novak is one of the best ever players in the history of tennis and his words mean a lot to me. It's nice that a player like him said such nice words to me so I am proud of that."

Berdych said:"I think we might see him here for another couple of years. He's a young guy. He's very hungry. He went through the qualies, played another two solid matches. I think he's a very talented player."

Dzumhur said Bosnian newspapers and television stations had contacted him straight after he came off the court to talk with their new national sporting hero.

"They were unbelievably surprised with my game and they said that the whole of Bosnia didn't sleep tonight," he said.

"They said everybody was in front of their televisions watching and they were just so proud.

"They said it was such a success and nobody has done it before and they don't know if anybody can repeat it. They hope I can do it again.

"I am really glad I am Bosnian and I'm really happy that Bosnia can be in such a big event.

"I hope I will come again here and in other Grand Slams to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina, because that small country deserves it and that small country needs sports success."

Dzumhur, who was born in Sarajevo in May 1992, a month after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina began, is proud to have created such huge interest in his homeland after his performances in Melbourne.

"Tennis in Bosnia was very unpopular until now and it's nice that I have put tennis on a higher level in Bosnia," he said.

"I hope all the children who don't know what to do will start playing tennis with some hope that they can be on a pro level.

"Football and now tennis are definitely two of the biggest things in Bosnian sport. That's what everybody told me.

"2014 has started really well for me and also for Bosnia sport and now they expect me to be a good player and I hope I will make them happy."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140117/tennis-bosnias-new-star-dzumhur-looks-the-horizon