Shevchenko’s Surge: Plenty Of Game On & Off Court

The 22-year-old is a two-time Challenger champion
May 01, 2023
Alexander Shevchenko in action at this week's Madrid Challenger.
Alberto Simón/César de Pablos
Alexander Shevchenko in action at this week's Madrid Challenger. By Grant Thompson

Editor’s Note: This story was first published on 14 April, 2023.

Wake up, brush his teeth, play video games.

That may be Alexander Shevchenko’s perfect day without tennis. The 22-year-old recalled that was roughly the schedule that he and World No. 5 Daniil Medvedev kept when the tour was put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

“I like to game a lot, sometimes with Daniil Medvedev when we are in touch,” Shevchenko told “When we speak, we are playing games together like Rainbow Six Siege and FIFA. I’m usually Manchester United and he takes Bayern Munich, because he’s a fan of Bayern. Right now, it’s not so often because we have a tough calendar. When he has weeks off, sometimes I’m off as well.

“During Covid times, I remember we were playing so much that it was crazy. First thing, we wake up, go brush our teeth, eat, and then we sit down and play for I don’t know how many hours. I don’t even want to say it!”

ATP Challenger Tour 

The World No. 107 Shevchenko is relishing a breakout season on the ATP Challenger Tour. After claiming his maiden Challenger title in Bratislava last year, Shevchenko added to his trophy collection by claiming the Tenerife-1 Challenger in January. Two months later, Shevchenko made a splash at the all-new Challenger 175 event in Phoenix, Arizona, where he advanced through qualifying en route to a finalist finish.

But all didn’t look too well when Shevchenko arrived in Phoenix.

“I came into Phoenix with no expectations, I wasn’t even entered in the tournament because I messed up a little bit with the entries,” Shevchenko said. “So I went with my father to Indian Wells and from Indian Wells to Phoenix by car. We arrived there and there was no hotel room for us because I was an alternate and I couldn’t get a room there, there was a big baseball event going on at that time.

“I was like, ‘Okay, we didn’t get a hotel here but let’s see if we can book another hotel.’ And we opened up the booking and the price for the hotel was $1,500 per night. We were shocked and thinking about what to do, ‘We have to stay two days without knowing if I would get in and pay $3,000 for the hotel?’ In the end, we were just waiting in the car and it popped up at like 11 p.m. or midnight that there’s one hotel for $300 and we went there. It was crazy. We were preparing to sleep in the car.”

A jam-packed crowd enjoys Saturday's action at the Challenger 175 event in Phoenix.
A full house at the Arizona Tennis Classic watches Alexander Shevchenko. Credit: Mary Grace Grabill

When ‘Sascha’ got settled into the Arizona Tennis Classic, things began to click for him. En route to the final, he ousted several players whom he enjoys watching on TV.

“When I got into the tournament and got an official hotel, my first [main-draw] match was against [Gael] Monfils, my idol growing up,” Shevchenko said. “The first match I ever saw was Monfils against Federer in the semi-finals of Roland Garros in 2008. I just fell in love with the way he plays tennis and his passion. He’s a showman.

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“The quarter-final was the best win of my career against Matteo Berrettini, who is one of my favourites to watch on the tour right now. Unbelievable serve, unbelievable forehand.”

What’s noteworthy is that Shevchenko and the Frenchman Monfils share a coach, Gunter Bresnik, who has worked with prominent players such as Boris Becker, Patrick McEnroe, and Dominic Thiem.

Shevchenko, who has lived in Vienna since age nine, met Bresnik in a unique way.

“I went on holiday with my family to Kitzbuehel and I said to my mother, ‘I don’t want to ski, I don’t want to snowboard, I just want to play tennis!’ She wanted me to play other sports but she said, ‘Okay, let’s go play tennis.’ So we found a coach, an ex-player of Gunter, Markus Hipfl, he was surprised by how well I played and he said that I should come to Gunter and then he contacted Gunter.

“I’ve worked with him since I was nine years old. Year by year I’m improving with him and I trust him a lot. To me, he’s like a father.”

Alexander Shevchenko is crowned champion at the 2023 Tenerife-1 Challenger. Credit: Daniele Combi/MEF Tennis Events.

Knocking on the door of a Top 100 debut, ‘Sascha’ is hoping that his surge is just at the beginning.

“My goal [this year] is to get to the Top 70 or 60. It’s going to be really tough,” Shevchenko said. “I don’t want to say just to have big expectations but I think it’s kind of a reachable goal with the way I’m playing right now.”

Shevchenko is in action at this week’s Madrid Challenger, where he is seeded second and will meet Italian Francesco Passaro in Saturday’s semi-final.

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