Having endured a bumpy start to the season, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina arrives at the Mutua Madrid Open flying higher than ever after his year took off in style at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters last month.
The Spaniard produced aggressive and explosive performances as he soared to his maiden tour-level final at the ATP Masters 1000 event, climbing to a career-high No. 27 in the process.
It was a welcome return to form for Davidovich Fokina, who had struggled to achieve the results his hard work deserved in the early months of the season. The 22-year-old was 4-9 on the year prior to his arrival in the Principality and admitted that he was drained following his first-round defeat in Marrakech at the start of April.
“The beginning of the season was tough,” Davidovich Fokina told ATPTour.com. “The week before I played in Marrakech and I lost in the first round. I needed to reset my mind because it was not going well. I took three days off, and went away to disconnect my mind. I continued to work on my fitness but I turned my phone off, I was just reading books and was trying to see what I wanted to do with my life.
“I took a flight to Monte Carlo on Saturday and then played Sunday and I was like ‘OK, I don’t care’. I just wanted to reset my mind. In the first round I played against [Marcos] Giron on the centre court and it was fun and I was nervous but it felt different. I was refreshed and it was good.”
Following his opening win, the refocused Spaniard then met World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who was competing at an event for just the second time this season. Davidovich Fokina battled hard in front of a packed Court Rainier III to topple the Serb 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1 for the biggest win of his career.
For the two-time ATP Challenger Tour champ, it was another key moment in the changing of his fortunes.
“From the beginning of the tournament I didn’t think I would reach the final. I had a very tough draw,” Davidovich Fokina said. “In the second round, I had Djokovic. He had not had a lot of rhythm of matches, so I thought I had an opportunity to win that match. After that win, I had a lot of confidence in myself.
“The beginning of the season was tough because in a lot of matches I had a lot of control but that escaped, and I lost. However, after beating Djokovic, everything grew confidence-wise and I started to believe in myself and pushing myself to see where my limits are.”
Push himself he did, earning further victories against David Goffin, Taylor Fritz and Grigor Dimitrov, before World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas halted him in the final.
By advancing to his maiden tour-level championship match, Davidovich Fokina was rewarded for all the hard work he has put into his game for the past decade.
A crucial figure behind the 22-year-old’s success is coach Jorge Aguirre. The pair has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship after they started working together at Racket Club Fuengirola, Malaga, in 2011.
“I started with him when I was 11. He is obviously my coach but he is more like my father,” Davidovich Fokina said, cracking a smile. “He is teaching me new things every day, keeping me in line. The good line. Because sometimes you go to a line you shouldn’t. Without him and his help, I wouldn’t have been a tennis player.”
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Under Aguirre’s guidance, Davidovich Fokina has won two ATP Challenger titles, competed at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in 2019 and steadily climbed the ATP Rankings.
Now his goals for the rest of the season are clear.
“Our objective this year was to be Top 20. But after the start of the season, I was around No. 50 and struggling a little bit. However, to be in the Top 30 after Monte Carlo, it has changed a lot of things,” Davidovich Fokina said. “I have to believe in myself more and be more ambitious. I want to be Top 20 before the clay season is over. Then after that we will see what happens.”
The Spaniard, who revealed he loves watching the Marvel movies when he is not competing, will begin his Mutua Madrid Open campaign against Lloyd Harris on Monday. It will be the first time Davidovich Fokina has played on home soil this year and he is relishing the opportunity.
“For me to play in Spain is so exciting. You play in front of your people and the Spanish fans,” Davidovich Fokina said. “It is my third year here playing in Madrid and it is always fun because you can feel the support and the energy the people can give you. After what I did in Monte Carlo, I have more confidence to play well and I will really enjoy it.”