Davidovich Fokina Is Finding Serenity In Life And On Court In Marseille

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (photo: Open 13 Provence)

MARSEILLE/WASHINGTON, February 6, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina has worked hard to find moments of serenity amidst the hustle and bustle of life on the ATP Tour. It hasn’t always been an easy road for the hard-working Spaniard.

In the past week, though, things are beginning to look up for the popular 24-year-old from Malaga, Spain – both on and off the tennis court.

First, off the court, Davidovich Fokina recently announced his engagement to his girlfriend, Paloma Amatiste. He popped the question at the base of Rome’s Trevi Fountain, then wrote in a social media post “Per sempre,” in Amatiste’s native Italian, accompanied by a diamond ring emoji. The phrase “per sempre” translates to “forever.”

Soon, congratulatory messages poured in for the personable Davidovich Fokina from a variety of fellow Spaniards, including Carlos Alcaraz, Paula Badosa and David Ferrer as well as from Novak Djokovic, Arthur Fils and Lorenzo Musetti.

On the court, the World No. 24 Davidovich Fokina earned his 100 career ATP Tour victory Tuesday afternoon at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, France. He rallied from a set down to defeat 105th-ranked Gregoire Barrere of France, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, in two hours and four minutes to advance to the second round. It was his first match since announcing his engagement and the second time this season Davidovich Fokina has come back to win after losing the first set.

The first-round triumph at Bouches du Rhône improved Davidovich Fokina’s season win-loss record to 4-1 and his career win-loss record to 100-98.

Davidovich Fokina, who is seeded fifth in Marseille, converted three of four break points and outpointed Barrere 93-85. The Frenchman dropped to 4-23 lifetime against Top 30 competition.

“Gregoire is a very good player, very aggressive and, indoors, can be very hard to play against,” Davidovich Fokina said in his on-court interview. “I was looking forward to improving my levels in this match. I’m very happy [with the outcome]. 

“Playing against French players in France is always very tough but I felt the crowd was supporting me. I look forward to the next match.”

The Spanish No. 2 moved to 21-6 in his opening rounds since the start of the 2023 season. Next, he will face either No. 55 Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland or No. 68 Luca Van Assche of France, who play Wednesday.

Murray plight continues, losing streak now six

Great Britain’s Andy Murray remained stuck on 498 career hard-court wins following his 7-5, 6-4 loss to No. 66 Tomas Machac. The 23-year-old Czech, whose confidence has been building week by week in 2024, won 83 percent of his first-serve points, broke Murray’s serve three times in five tries, and outpointed the 49th-ranked Murray 66-55. Machac put away the victory in his first career meeting with the former World No. 1 with a forehand winner that capped a 17-shot rally on his first match-point opportunity for his fourth main-draw victory of the season.

The loss dropped Murray to 0-4 this season and extended his losing streak to six. His last win came last October against Yannick Hanfmann in the first round at Basel. He won the Marseille title in 2008, a very long 16 years ago.

“I think some things I did better than last week [in Montpellier],” Murray said in a post-match news conference. “I thought [Tomas] played a very good match. He served well, very accurate. I didn’t play a very good game at 5-all in the first set. After that, he played very well after he had the lead.”

Meanwhile, Machac extended his five-match winning streak in tour-level opening rounds. He is 5-13 versus Top 50 players in his career, earning three of those wins this year. Next, he will face No. 6 seed Lorenzo Musetti of Italy on Wednesday.

“There is no easy matches, so I will have to do my best to win,” Machac said in his on-court interview.

Gaston wins first match on home soil in two years

French qualifier Hugo Gaston overcame 17 aces from 127th-ranked wild card Denis Shapovalov of Canada and rallied to win the last four games of his first-round match. It all added up to a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 victory for diminutive 86th seed from Toulouse. Gaston’s victory in Marseille was sweet revenge for his first-round loss last week in Montpellier.

It was the first tour-level win on home soil for Gaston since reaching the third round at Roland-Garros in 2022. The left-handed Frenchman broke a seven-match tour-level losing streak against fellow left-handers (he’s 6-7 overall after a 5-0 start).

Korda garners 100th career tour-level triumph

Sebastian Korda of the United States earned the 100th tour-level win of his career (100-63) with a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (3) victory over France’s Hugo Grenier. The 34th-ranked American struck 10 aces and overcame three breaks of his serve against Grenier, a 155th-ranked French qualifier, during their two-hour, eight-minute match. Grenier, who won their only prior meeting at Madrid last year, outpointed Korda 92-89.

Korda joins Taylor Fritz (237), Steve Johnson (197), Frances Tiafoe (179), Tommy Paul (134), Donald Young (124) and Mackenzie McDonald (100) as the only other active American men to reach the 100-victory milestone. Next, Korda will oppose No. 2 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.

Around the Palais de Sports

No. 50 Zhang Zhizhen of China came from a set down to defeat 111th-ranked Italian lucky loser Giulio Zeppieri, 6-7 (7), 6-1, 6-4, in back of 10 service aces. Zhang saved all four break points he faced and broke Zeppieri three times during their two-hour, nine-minute match. He won three of the last four games. Next, Zhang will face either No. 7 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada or 101st-ranked French wild card Quentin Halys, who play Wednesday.

No. 94 Arthur Rinderknech of France, who entered the main draw as an alternate, rallied from a set down to beat 128th-ranked American qualifier Maxime Cressy, 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-2, in two hours and 35 minutes. Rinderknech withstood 14 aces from Cressy, hit 10 aces of his own and converted four break points. He outpointed Cressy 106-94 in their first career main draw meeting. Next, Rinderknech will face No. 8 Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic, who overcame a one-set deficit to beat 134th-ranked Belgian qualifier David Goffin, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2. It was Lehecka’s first win against Goffin in three career meetings.

Doubles No. 2 seeds Harri Heliovaara of Finland and John Peers of Australia advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-3 win over French wild cards Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Gregoire Jacq. Also advancing were No. 3 seeds Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler of Austria.

Tuesday’s Open 13 Provence results

Wednesday’s Open 13 Provence order of play

By the numbers

Andy Murray remains two hard court wins away (498-173) from becoming the fifth player to record 500 tour-level hard court wins in Open Era (following Roger Federer 783, Novak Djokovic 700, Andre Agassi 592 and Rafael Nadal 518).

“Quotable …”

“It’s special to share the court with such a great person, such a legend. I’m super happy that I could play against him. That I won today is just a bonus.”

Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic, during his on-court interview, following his first-round upset of Andy Murray.