Davidovich Fokina: A Marathon Man With The Fitness Of A Bull
“Can we get you anything, Alejandro?”
“No, no, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, maybe a new pair of legs…”
The conversation was punctuated by the player’s laughter as Alejandro Davidovich Fokina arrived in the press conference room after his epic clash with Casper Ruud. He was still exhausted after a match he won 7-6(3), 2-6, 7-6(6), 0-6, 7-5. But his efforts have given the Next Gen ATP Finals alumnus his first appearance in the Roland Garros fourth round.
To equal his best Grand Slam result – he played his first fourth round in a major at last year’s US Open (l. Zverev) – the 22-year-old Spaniard has spent 10 hours and 14 minutes on court in three matches, an average of more than three hours per match.
More than ever, Davidovich Fokina has demonstrated his stamina on the French clay, where he has continued his perfect record in Grand Slam fifth sets. He has never lost a match in a major that has gone the distance (4-0).
“Playing five sets is like a marathon. It’s thanks to having Martin [Fiz] in my team that I have the mentality of a marathon runner. That helps me and in the fifth set I step onto the court to give my all,” Davidovich Fokina acknowledged this week. He now has two five-set wins to his name in Paris, against Botic Van de Zandschulp in the second round and Ruud in the third.
Martín Fiz, the 1995 marathon world champion, is the member of his team responsible for fostering this talent. “Alex is proving to be a true marathon man. He’s the Eliud Kipchoge [marathon world record holder] of tennis,” the Spanish athlete told ATPTour.com. “He combines the pace of Usain Bolt with the stamina of a marathon runner.”
At the end of last year, Davidovich Fokina’s coach, Jorge Aguirre, felt that bringing the athlete to the team would help him enormously, and his intuition served him well. The results of the No. 46 in the FedEx ATP Rankings speak for themselves.
“We did a week and a half of pre-season training. But beyond that, he helps me mentally and with motivational messages to keep fighting,” revealed the 22-year-old Spaniard. “What Martin has done in athletics and continues to do is an inspiration to me and it makes me want to keep at it, because I know I can do more.”
Before and after every match, Davidovich Fokina receives a call from Fiz with various messages and pointers, which help him deal with matches such as those he has faced this week in France.
“You’re going to win and you are winning marathon matches. Keep believing in yourself, because we believe in you,” Fiz told Davidovich Fokina on WhatsApp after beating Ruud on Friday. “Roland Garros is a special place, and you’re on the verge of overcoming a hurdle that seemed too high at the start of the season. Vamos!!!”
The ‘hurdle’ Martin Fiz mentioned is now Federico Delbonis. The Argentine will be his next opponent and, like Davidovich Fokina, he will be bidding to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final. Despite the physical wear and tear from the first week in the French capital, the Spaniard is ready for yet another endurance battle if it is required of him.
Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
“After matches like this, obviously I’m tired, but they also take it out of you mentally,” he explained. “If before the match I’m already thinking that I’m going to play five sets against Delbonis – and I hope I don’t – then I have to picture myself with the fitness of a bull.”
Davidovich Fokina is bursting with the energy typical of a young man of his age, and his team has seen to it that he has no shortage of motivation. “These wins give me plenty of confidence, much more energy to keep going and to see where my limits are. Winning [against Ruud] in five sets also helped me see how far I can go and how much I can take. My whole team is very happy and I’m happy with the work we’ve been doing.”
Without a doubt, Davidovich Fokina has surrounded himself with a team that has turned him into a true marathon man.