Back up after summer tumble, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina plots second Slam QF at US OpenBy Sep 04, 2022
Talking Tennis With Tracy, Episode 6: Practice like the prosBy Nov 19, 2022
Mid-season start proves to be no problem for the surging Ivan Dodig and Austin KrajicekBy Nov 14, 2022
Clearer thinking and strides in fitness have Ajla Tomljanovic believing her best is yet to comeBy Nov 09, 2022
Nancy Richey on Jessica Pegula's motivation, Coco Gauff's nerves, and the modern-day match-up she wishes she could have seen more ofBy Oct 31, 2022
Heart & Soul: How an AED saved Murphy Jensen's life, and gave him new directionBy Oct 28, 2022
Jenson Brooksby has heard your takes on his gameBy Oct 26, 2022
The TENNIS Conversation: Rajeev Ram and his path to doubles No. 1 at the age of 38By Oct 26, 2022
Navratilova: For Swiatek, WTA Finals would be "exclamation point on an amazing year"By Oct 22, 2022
Eying Australian Open seed, Marcos Giron plots indoor onslaught to cap sophomore seasonBy Oct 12, 2022
Back up after summer tumble, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina plots second Slam QF at US Open
Set to face Matteo Berrettini on Sunday, the entertaining Spaniard has employed an aggressive approach that has made him a crowd favorite throughout the first week.
Published Sep 04, 2022
WATCH: Davidovich Fokina has played plenty of unforgettable points through his rise up the ATP rankings.
NEW YORK—Alejandro Davidovich Fokina loves New York, and after a wildly successful first week at the US Open, it’s clear the Big Apple loves him back.
“I appreciate the energy that the people give here, not only at the club on site, but when you’re at the hotel,” he tells me after a second-round five-setter with Marton Fucsovics. “They know about tennis, they watch a lot of tennis, and you feel that.”
The three-named world No. 39 better known as “Foki” is leaning on a high table while we chat, cap backwards and occasionally looking up at the media center monitor showing Serena Williams’ upset of No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit. Calm and soft-spoken, his off-court persona is remarkably different from the tumbling, superstitious showman who has commanded attention all over the US Open grounds through his first three matches.
But even in his civilian state, there’s no mistaking the six-foot-tall Spaniard sporting mismatched socks across the avenues in Manhattan.
“I go in the street with my team and the people are stopping me to take selfies,” he exclaims, sleepy eyes widening. “In Times Square, there were hundreds of people there and so many recognized me.”
Physically I'm stronger. Mentally I'm stronger. Nothing to compare to like two years ago. Now I understand more the game. For me it's different how to recover after the match, how to start the match, how to manage the five sets. Then it's completely different. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Already a celebrity, Foki is still angling to become a star after a European swing that took him from the high of his first Masters 1000 final in Monte Carlo to the low of losing a fifth-set tiebreaker of his Wimbledon second round on a point penalty.
Back-to-back losses leading up to his return to the US Open emboldened him to employ a more aggressive game plan and it immediately paid off in Flushing Meadows, earning him a straight-set victory over Citi Open runner-up Yoshihito Nishioka.
“It’s allowing me to feel the ball with so much more confidence, so I’m going to continue doing that,” muses the Málaga native.
When he found himself in another Sudden Death against Fucsovics on Wednesday, the 23-year-old hoped what he had learned from a formative summer—plus the Open’s inimitable combination of quick courts and enthusiastic spectators—would redeem him beneath the floodlights illuminating Court 12.
“The energy here is always amazing,” he said—though when he made his major breakthrough at this event in 2020, no fans were on site due to COVID-19. “The people feel the matches a lot, and there’s always a lot of people from other countries coming to see players they support. I was playing next to [Daniel Elahi] Galan, and it was a crowd full of Colombians. I was thinking, ‘Wow, and he’s playing an American guy!’
“I felt this in Monte Carlo, as well, so they create a very similar atmosphere. I was feeling at home here.”
Foki would somewhat come to regret the specificity of his assessment when he got the Galan experience in person less than 48 hours later.
“It was all country of Colombia there,” he joked in press of the partisan scenario that played out on Court 17.
After splitting sets with the Colombian qualifier who began the week with a win over No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, he avoided a significant stumble—both literally and figuratively—to ultimately survive the onslaught and reach his second US Open fourth round in three years.
“Physically I'm stronger. Mentally I'm stronger. Nothing to compare to like two years ago. Now I understand more the game. For me it's different how to recover after the match, how to start the match, how to manage the five sets. Then it's completely different.”
Some things haven’t changed, though. Foki is still a born entertainer, one deeply dedicated to the craft and willing to do almost anything on court to bring a crowd to its feet—even if it means taking a tumble or ten.
“Sometimes I do everything to win that point. I just don't think about it,” he says, later adding with a wry smile, “I know how to dive, you know.
“But I just enjoying the moments like this, no? If I have to dive, I have to stretch my legs, I don't care, because I know that physically I'm strong.”
Matteo Berrettini will look to test that strength and score his first win in their head-to-head, having lost their only previous encounter on clay last spring.
“We actually practiced once before the tournament started,” said the former Wimbledon finalist, who chalked up their loss to rust after incurring an abdominal tear earlier that year, “so I kind of like know a little bit expecting what he's going to do.”
That feels hard to believe given Foki’s all-court game, sheer unpredictability, and the unseeded animal-lover’s own bourgeoning conviction in his ability to replicate the Monte Carlo upset on Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“I'm with more confidence than the first day,” Foki said. “I'm playing better and, you know, for sure I will enjoy that match against Matteo, because I want it. I want to be there and fight.”
Should he reach his second Grand Slam quarterfinal on Sunday, Foki should expect even more love—and selfie requests—from a New York audience ready to adopt him as one of their own.