The Spaniard was quick to label his second-round victory over Hubert Hurkacz at the US Open the “most important victory of my career”. At 21 years of age, the #NextGenATP player is in the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career, and he has a great opportunity to go even further on Friday, when he faces Cameron Norrie.
“I’m very happy and really satisfied with the work we did during quarantine, and also afterwards,” said Davidovich Fokina after the match. “We focused on fitness, but also on the mental side. I knew that I was on (Diego) Schwartzman’s side, but not much else. Every opponent is tough, everyone is hungry after five months without playing. The most important thing is being mentally prepared for the next match, rather than thinking about matches further down the line.”
It was during lockdown, in the five months that the ATP Tour was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that Davidovich Fokina took the opportunity to get to work on improving key aspects of his game while spending his home time cooking and taking some of the ATP’s online courses.
“I found the first month quite easy, I did a lot of things. I kept training at home, as they would send me my training plan each day,” said Davidovich Fokina, who played at the Next Gen ATP Finals in 2019. “Among all the bad things that were going on, I was training and could spend time on my hobbies, like cooking. I also did some online courses with ATP, as well as watching series and playing videogames with my friends.”
Being in Marbella, which is where Djokovic spent lockdown with his family, the Spaniard had the opportunity to train for several days with the World No. 1, in a series of sessions that undoubtedly helped him keep growing as a player.
“I’m so happy to have trained with Djokovic”, acknowledged the Spaniard. “It was a great experience. I had always seen him on television as a 10 out of 10 guy, but I can say that in person he is a 20. He made everything very easy for me, it was very comfortable training with him. You learn a lot, as you train hard for two hours training and hit every ball where it has to be. Mentally he is unbelievable. Training with him, it really rubbed off on me and helped me see where my game was.”
On the return of the ATP Tour we have seen a more patient version of Davidovich Fokina, but he has not lost his essence.
“I consider myself a very aggressive player, although now I try to be more consistent and not as frantic as before,” said Davidovich Fokina. “I’m not as excitable. I have my crazy side of course, but we’re working to calm that down on court.”
That crazy side makes the Spaniard a spectacular player capable of underarm serving, drop shots that are a weapon in themselves and balls hit with such venom that his opponents are often left stunned.
“All of this [the underarm serve] came from training with Enrique Lopez,” said Davidovich Fokina on the World No. 356, his habitual training partner. “I did it for the first time in an ATP Challenger in Marbella and I’ve been practising it. I don’t practise the other hot shots. Years ago, I was really focused on practising shots like that, but now that I’ve established myself on Tour, I think that the amazing shots come on their own. I want to be consistent. I still have a long road ahead of me, many tournaments to play. I think about improving every day because I hope I have many years left in my career.”
Who better than Pablo Carreno Busta, who is currently No. 27 in the FedEx ATP Ranking and one of Davidovich Fokina’s closest friends, to give some insight into the young star?
“He’s an amazing player, he’s a little crazy, but that craziness makes him aggressive at challenging times,” says Carreno Busta. “It’s very important to be courageous in tennis. I’m sure he’ll reach the third round of a Grand Slam many times. He is still young, he has a long road ahead of him, many things to learn and improve. Hopefully we’ll still see him here for many years to come.”