Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina - Spain`s next Big Hope
Not since Rafael Nadal in 2006 has Spain had as young an ATP Tour semi-finalist as Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Danielle Rossingh profiles the next big player to come from Spain, a young man with a tattoo on his arm of an ocean wave that says ‘Where I’m going, I’m going to destroy’.
With Rafael Nadal now well into his 30s, who will be Spain’s next great big hope?
A junior Wimbledon champion
Look no further than 21-year-old Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, a highly entertaining Wimbledon junior champion with a penchant for drop shots and the odd underarm serve, who is considered one of Spain’s brightest prospects.
Born to a Swedish-Russian father, Eduard Mark Davidovich, and a Russian mother, Tatiana Fokina, in Malaga, a port city on Spain’s Costa del Sol, Davidovich Fokina has been playing tennis for as long as he can remember.
Although his father was once a boxer, he wasn’t too keen on his son following in his footsteps. So, when Davidovich Fokina was just two years of age, his father put a tennis racket into his hand.
‘I started with my father on the beach, in the sand courts in my city,’ he told reporters at Wimbledon in 2017, after beating Argentina’s Axel Geller to become Spain’s first junior Grand Slam champion since Manuel Orantes half a century earlier.
By the time he was six, he was training in the small Malaga suburb of La Cala del Moral with coach Manolo Rubiales. Davidovich Fokina started working with his current coach, Jorge Aguirre, at Racket Club Fuengirola when he was 11 years old. Nicknamed Ale, Davi and Foki, he has one brother, Mark, and now lives in Fuengirola, on the Costa del Sol.
Although Davidovich Fokina – who speaks Spanish, English and Russian – honed his game on Spanish clay courts, he won his biggest title to date on the lawns of the All England Club. His win came a few weeks after he reached the boys’ singles semi-finals at Roland-Garros. After early losses at Wimbledon the year before, he had only practised on grass for a few days before the event began.
‘I wasn’t expecting to win at all,’ he told India’s The Hindu Sportstar newspaper during a tournament in Chennai last year. ‘The first time I played on grass, I must have fallen at least 40 times. So that surface wasn’t my best.’
Still, Davidovich Fokina adopted a champion’s mindset. When asked by reporters afterwards if a packed No 1 Court at Wimbledon had made him nervous, he said: ‘No. Well, I was thinking, OK I will not think about that. I will think, I want to win this. I want to show to the people who I am, that I want to play tennis, professional tennis. I want to show them what I want to do with my life. I was thinking, Okay, you be yourself, and just enjoy.”
He may have grown up on clay but his unconventional playing style is different from most other Spanish players. Standing at 1.83 metres (6ft), his game is built around a blistering double-handed backhand, all-court coverage and deft drop shots. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were big influences in his youth.
Playing the young Spaniard in the first round of the Estoril claycourt tournament, the American Taylor Fritz was overheard telling his box: ‘I’ve played Nishikori and Djokovic. He is hitting the ball like them.’
'Where Im going, I`m going to destroy'
Davidovich Fokina sports a large tattoo of a large ocean wave on the inside of his arm. ‘Where I’m going, I’m going to destroy,’ he told Spain’s Punto de Break, when asked about its meaning. It’s perhaps not surprising he lists Australian tennis rebel Nick Kyrgios and Italy’s Fabio Fognini – two players who wear their hearts on their sleeves – as his favourite players to watch.
Just like Kyrgios, he is not afraid to unsettle opponents with the odd underarm serve. When he played local favourite Thiago Seyboth Wild during the Rio Open in February, Davidovich Fokina twice played an underarm serve. His tactics riled the crowd and angered his opponent, but have since made it onto various highlight reels of the men’s ATP Tour.
Since turning pro in 2019, Davidovich Fokina has soared up the rankings thanks to two Challenger titles in Spain and China in 2019. He finished the 2019 season as the world No 87, an improvement of 154 spots over the year and an impressive 34-11 record on the Challenger circuit. ‘Breaking through [into the Top 100] is a huge step,’ Davidovich Fokina told ATPtour.com. ‘I see big things in my future.’
Davidovich Fokina showed his fighting spirit during a dramatic match at last year’s Next Gen Finals for players under the age of 21 in Milan, when he played on despite sustaining a painful leg injury against Casper Ruud. After collapsing to the ground in pain, the young Spaniard eventually got up, had the trainer tape up his leg and played on. He would eventually lose to the Norwegian in the longest match in the tournament’s history. His opponent lauded him afterwards as a “a really strong fighter.”
Now firmly established on the second-tier Challenger circuit, it will be interesting to see how quickly he can make the transition to the main ATP Tour. Ranked 97th when the tour was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, he looks set to be a regular in the majors for the foreseeable future. Keep an eye out for him.
WORDS BY DANIELLE ROSSINGH