Qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina continued his excellent run in Portugal by defeating Gael Monfils 6-7 7-5 6-4 to secure his place in a maiden tour-level semifinal at the Estoril Open.
Just 19, the youngster has very little experience at this level. Indeed, he was competing in just his third main draw and was playing an opponent in Monfils with a long and successful career behind him, highlighted by a top ten finish in 2016. But Davidovich Fokina showed absolutely no fear under pressure, despite dropping a hard-fought first set. He stuck to his task, continuing to go for his shots and was the player dictating the pace of the match. Ultimately, he got his reward for that ambition when it mattered.
There were so many things that the youngster did admirably on the day. So far at the Estoril Open, the Spaniard has been able to win his matches because of a flat and dangerous backhand that can take all the time away from his opponent. It was once again that shot that enabled him to get back into the match in the second set before taking full control of the encounter in the dying stages.
But there is more to Davidovich Fokina’s game than just his two-hander. The 19-year-old also showed very good variation. He used the backhand slice, as well as the drop shot and the backhand lob to good effect, choosing the right time to deploy that variation, when he had Monfils out of position. It was his know-how, especially on the big points that set him apart from Monfils, who admittedly wasn’t quite at his best having been out of action since mid-March.
There are certainly a lot of reasons to be excited about this talent going forward. Just two years ago Davidovich Fokina won the Wimbledon Boys’ title and he has since had some success at Challenger-level, reaching two finals, including earlier this year in Bangkok (lost to Duckworth). He has now begun to make an impact at the highest level of the sport and one suspects it may not be too long before he becomes a regular on tour.
Davidovich Fokina has now won five matches in succession this week and has his first semifinal to look forward to, although he will surely need to be at his very best up against the experienced clay-court specialist Pablo Cuevas. Once the Spaniard has finished with this event in Portugal he will go on to play in the main draw of a Masters event for the first time at the Madrid Open, where he took a late wildcard. Don’t rule out another good run for the teenager.
Embed from Getty Images