CHENNAI: Damir Dzumhur isn’t your ideal top-100 tennis player. They are all greek gods chiseled to perfection. Mythical beings in a land of muggles. The Bosnian, though, isn’t like that. The World No 77 stands at 5’9”. In tennis, that isn’t tall enough. Among the world’s top 80 players, he is, give or take a few millimeters, the fifth shortest.
But then, Dzumhur, who was born in Sarajevo one month after the beginning of the Bosnian War, isn’t like any other established professional. If ever the first year of his life is made into a movie, it has the potential to be a Steven Spielberg-ian epic. The hospital he was born in had to be evacuated 24 hours later. The danger that existed back then was so much that his father, Nerfid, did not even see him for eight months. So it’s obvious that Dzumhur isn’t comfortable trying to remember a memory he has been trying to forget for a long time.
“It’s been 20 years since the war ended,” he says. “My family told me a lot of things about continuing living. But what it was has passed, and we don’t need to think a lot about it.”
He may have been classified as a war child, but the support system around him meant he was never in harm’s way. His fledgling career in his chosen sport — he was enrolled into an academy run by his father from the age of three — faced a strong test from a very unlikely source. Cinema.
“There was an audition during high school, and I went for it because I liked it. I was young, and didn’t have so many matches to play. They chose me for one movie (Snipers Valley, 2007), after which I got another. It was fun, performing in front of the cameras wasn’t a big deal for me.”
Directors in that part of the world liked what he did, so there were more offers. “I got two more offers after that, but I was already playing serious tennis. I’d started my Futures, so had to turn them down.”
The gamble has so far worked, who has made Belgrade his new home because of superior training and practice facilities. He is one of the myriad athletes who have what it takes to take their game up a level. He recognises that. “My target for the year is to break into the top 50, and take it from there.”
In case he achieves his stated aim, and you have trouble pronouncing his name, it’s DAH-meer JOOM-hoor. It could come in handy.