WATCH: By beating Djokovic, Davidovich Fokina earned his first-ever Top 5 win, and only his second against a Top 10 player.

He got knocked down, but he got up again: Alejandro Davidovich Fokina would not be kept down at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and scored an at times improbable but always captivating upset of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1.

Davidovich Fokina twice led the 20-time Grand Slam champion by a set and a break but refused to fade in the face of Djokovic’s persistent comebacks, edging into the third round after almost three hours on Court Rainier III.

"This win is so special for me because I grew up watching Nole, and I'm his big fan!" a tongue-tied Davidovich Fokina said on court after the match. "I look at him every tournament and every match. Here in Monte Carlo, full of people, against the No. 1, I enjoyed every moment. I'm so happy."

Though Djokovic typically begins his clay-court campaign in Monte Carlo, the two-time champion likely wouldn’t have guessed it would be just his second tournament of the year when he arrived in Melbourne to start his season.

The Serb’s decision to remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 famously ruled him out of the Australian Open following a lengthy court (read: legal) battle, leading him to make his 2022 debut at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships—where he reached the quarterfinals and endured a defeat to Czech nemesis Jiri Vesely. The lack of match play allowed rival Daniil Medvedev to reach No. 1 for the first time in February.

A planned return to action during the Sunshine Swing was also scrapped due to his unvaccinated status and prevented him from playing either the BNP Paribas Open or Miami Open, making his clash with Davidovich Fokina his first match in nearly two months.


I still feel motivation to be on the tour and compete with young guys and try to challenge the best players in the world for the biggest titles. Novak Djokovic

“I miss competition,” he said in his pre-tournament press conference. “I still feel motivation to be on the tour and compete with young guys and try to challenge the best players in the world for the biggest titles.

“Obviously the last four, five months have been really challenging for me mentally and emotionally, but here I am and I try to leave all of that behind and move on.”

The rust was nonetheless evident early on: Djokovic dumped a drop shot into the net to cede an early break and lost 14 of 16 points en route to a double-break deficit.

A former junior Wimbledon champion and quarterfinalist at Roland Garros last spring, Davidovich Fokina snapped a three-match losing streak with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Marcus Giron to book the meeting with Djokovic, who won both their 2021 encounters in straight sets.

Speaking to Tennis Majors_, he opened up about his history of suffering letdowns after making career milestones, including a post-Paris slump led to first-round defeats at Wimbledon and the US Open.

“I was playing well and during the grass season, I was playing good until a click in my head,” he recalled to Alizé Lim. Then, I couldn’t play anymore. My head wasn’t able to play. I was winning against [Denis] Kudla and I lost in five. From then, it was a freefall. It’s something I need to improve. Each time, I understand it better. In the end, when you’re at the bottom, you learn and you say, ‘I don’t want to stay there. It’s not good.’ I felt very bad those months, but now I’m enjoying tennis.”

The 22-year-old looked eager to avenge those defeats and took full advantage of the top seed’s initially subpar play, drawing 16 errors in the opening set alone to close in on the upset with a third break of serve.


Djokovic, who made a similarly early exit in Monte Carlo last year to Dan Evans, aimed to turn things around early in the second set with a break point on the Spaniard’s serve, but couldn’t convert as Davidovich Fokina turned the tables on the Serb’s serve game to score his own break after a spellbinding rally.

Notorious for his mismatched socks, frequent on (and off) court tumbles, and beloved for his pet-rescue advocacy, Davidovich Fokina played serious tennis through a marathon third game, saving five break points to—quite literally—barrel-roll into a 3-0 advantage.

Things got more complicated from there: Djokovic largely dominated four of the next five games to put himself in reach of a third set, only for Davidovich Fokina to tap back into elite form and sweep the next two games.

A game from defeat, Djokovic saw a 30-0 lead evaporate following a third “Foki fall” but forced a tiebreaker after a fourth. Covered in clay, Davidovich Fokina still had more fight in him for the ensuing Sudden Death, twice edging ahead by a mini-break before the first change of ends.


"I started very good from the beginning because I knew Nole doesn't have the confidence from not playing a lot," Davidovich Fokina explained. "I knew I had to focus on every point because I had my chances from the beginning, and I just did it."

Djokovic duly clawed back each time, earning a set point off a shanked Davidovich Fokina forehand. He forced a final set after just over two hours with a forehand winner and utterly memeable celebration.

"When he won the second set, it was tough, mentally. But I'm working so hard to be more focused that it doesn't matter if I lose a second set or a first set: I have to be prepared for the war. That was it."

The Serb’s emotional release perhaps triggered a letdown as a double fault immediately put him behind a break. Davidovich Fokina quickly capitalized, nearly nabbing another 3-0 lead before Djokovic settled and saved three more break points.

"I just kind of fought my way through to the third, but then I was just physically, completely, I collapsed," Djokovic said. "You know, I couldn't move anymore."

Momentum swings continued with Djokovic looking to level the decider, but his inspired opposition saved break point with a well-angled forehand and made another charge towards victory in the following game, converting an eighth break point when the world No. 1 netted a backhand and moved ahead, 5-1.

Djokovic made an inimitable last stand but couldn’t hold Davidovich Fokina back in the final game, dropping serve a ninth time and bowing out on a second match point after two hours and 54 minutes.

Up next for the victorious Spaniard could Djokovic's 2021 conqueror in Evans himself or David Goffin, who will face off on Wednesday.