Get To Know Evgeny Donskoy
Russian Evgeny Donskoy has caused quite the stir. The World No. 116 defied his Emirates ATP Ranking to save three match points and rally back from 5-1 down in the third set tie-break to prevail against seven-time winner Roger Federer at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday.
A career-high ranking of No. 65 (July 2013) proves his potential, alongside nine ATP Challenger Tour titles. Working his way back up the rankings, Donskoy possesses the hunger for the fight, qualifying for main draws in Rotterdam and Marseille last month.
Here are five things you need to know about the 26 year old, who has qualified for three tournaments from five attempts in 2017.
1. Youzhny The Mentor
Countryman Mikhail Youzhny lost to Donskoy in qualifying in Rotterdam earlier this month and also in the first round in Dubai. However, the Russian veteran is keen to see Donskoy’s career flourish.
The duo shares the same coach, Boris Sobkin, who is absent in the United Arab Emirates this week. Youzhny has stepped in, watching on during the Federer triumph.
“It's my friend who is helping me. Mikhail Youzhny,” joked Donskoy. “When I was down outside 200 in the rankings, he was saying to his coach, ‘I want to help this guy.’ He started to help me, I got injured last season, and I'm out trying to play better again.
“He's just a nice person, who is trying to do something for me. He's just saying to me, ‘If you need any help, just let me know.’ That's it.”
2. The Safin Influence
Former World No.1 Marat Safin used to provide “unreal assistance” to help Donskoy during his junior years: introducing him to coaches, helping to find academies and to provide tactical advice prior to matches. However, Moscow native Donskoy is determined to carve out his own legacy.
“When I was young, I loved Russian players, like Marat Safin and (Yevgeny) Kafelnikov, but they were never my idols. I'm different. Roger (Federer), everybody loves him, but they don't have to be your idol to understand that he's an unbelievable player.”
3. Match Point Drama
Not only did he manage to fight off three match points to beat Federer, Donskoy also saved two match points to beat David Ferrer in the Rio Olympics last summer.
However, in 2016 the 26-year-old lost four matches after holding at least one match point. By experiencing both sides of the match point fortunes, the Russian hopes such experiences mean that he is better equipped to deal with pressure.
“It is about keeping it simple. This is tennis, so many matches are won from being at match point. You have to fight.
“The guys who were with me today, my girlfriend is here too, they were telling me move your legs, try in every point. That's what I had in my mind. Without my team, I wouldn’t have been able to win.”
4. 100 Per Cent Record Vs Roger
Donskoy holds a rare unbeaten record against Roger Federer, who has spent more weeks at World No. 1 (302) than any other player in history. Wednesday’s remarkable comeback was their first FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter.
“I surprised everyone I think today. I think whoever wins against Roger surprises himself,” said Donskoy. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, but it will sink in tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll sleep much tonight.
“For sure it’s my best win. Not many players can say they beat Roger Federer the first time.”
5. Aiming For The Top
Despite achieving his first Top 10 victory, Donskoy is eager to continue his success to climb back up the rankings.
“I can say it's a dream come true, but this is sport. I don't like this, because you always want to win, even if it's Roger,” added the Dubai qualifier. “You come to a tournament, a Grand Slam, you know there is (Novak) Djokovic, (Andy) Murray, (Rafael) Nadal, and you're thinking, ‘Okay, I want to win.’ I understand that I'm 100 in the rankings, but you always have the ambition to be No. 1, always."