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Catching Up With...Alex Molcan, who sees an opening with Djokovic's former coach
The 24-year-old Slovakian winds down his career-best season with Novak Djokovic's former coach in his corner, and his eyes on more.
Published Sep 27, 2022
WATCH: Molcan faced the now top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals of Hamburg.
New names are beginning to make big impressions on the ATP Tour, and Alex Molcan believes he'll soon among them. That's what this 24-year-old from Slovakia is telling himself as he works his way up the rankings, from below the Top 100 in late 2021 to a career-high of No. 38 this May.
The old guard has not been as dominant this season, outside of the majors, and other top players have not had the same consistency, creating openings for others.
“I’m feeling that it's changing because [Novak] Djokovic was not playing [some tournaments] this year, [Rafael] Nadal is not playing all the tournaments because he's getting pretty old, [Roger] Federer finished the career. So it's getting easier,” Molcan tells TENNIS.com in a phone interview. “Now it’s the time everyone can win, I would say.
"You can see it also in the Grand Slams, like the US Open, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas first-round [defeat] against [Daniel Elahi] Galan who is around Top 100-ranked. There were many like this, so I feel like if I can stay healthy and practice good and be professional, I can go further."
Molcan has responded, reaching finals in Marrakech and Lyon for his best season so far.
"Also getting help from another coach, Marian Vajda," says Molcan, referring to Djokovic's former coach. "We started this season, May, so it's not even half a year. But he's an amazing coach. Also my other coach, Karol Beck, they are on the same wave [length]. They both have similar views on my tennis so there are no conflicts or different opinion, so they can always talk about my tennis.”
But he says his rise started a year before that, attracting the attention of Vajda when he was choosing his next assignment following his split from Djokovic in 2021.
"Since the finals in Belgrade [May 2021], I was really confident in my tennis, I was thinking, 'Yeah, I can play against really good guys and I can win.' Since then, almost every tournament was good," Molcan says. "There was no breakdowns, I was playing with confidence, so I was playing pretty good for the rest of the season. Also playing [the 2021] US Open, third round from qualies, that was pretty big. I was pretty happy, because it wasn't easy.”
Vajda's experience at the top levels of the game has helped Molcan, but they have not changed his strokes.
"Not really, actually. I didn't change change technique of the forehand, backhand. We are improving, of course, but just details," he says.
"Djokovic or Nadal, if you look at the video of them from 12 years ago, they played with different technique. But it is not something that coaches were asking them to change, it came from the players. If I'm going to watch [my game] from five years ago, maybe there is little changes, but it's not something that coach was trying to change. Every month I'm trying to hold a little bit different way, change the grip, I'm trying to hold the swing down—it's my view, what I want to do, it's not the coach."
Molcan, who is a very good mover, has a good understanding of the way he wants to play.
“It's different every time. Sometimes you feel it, you have the time you can play a winner. But I would say for me, I'm trying to prepare the point so I don't want to execute to play a winner on the second or third ball,” he says. “That is not a smart move for me, because I'm not playing with [power] like [Taylor] Fritz, or I don't know who. I'm trying to prepare the point and go to the net, play dropshot but I'm not trying to go crazy, go for the winner. That's not my style.”
Having started the season ranked No. 88 and achieving his aim of getting into the Top 50, Molcan is now looking even higher. Molcan will play next week in Astana, Kazakhstan, and will compete in four more tournaments this season, including the indoor Paris Masters. The top-ranked player from Slovalia, Molcan won both his singles in group play in Davis Cup.
“If I can finish in the Top 30, I would be extremely happy," he says. "It would be much more than I expected. I want to go further. If I can finish in the Top 30, I would be extremely happy. It would be much more than I expected.”