Koepfer Enjoys A Homecoming At Delray Beach Open

Dominik Koepfer (photo: Florian Heer)

DELRAY BEACH, February 17, 2024

Dominik Koepfer has had a eventful start to the season. The 29-year-old German secured his fifth ATP Challenger Tour title in the first week in Canberra, Australia. Following his appearance at the Australian Open, where he impressed with a strong performance against Alexander Zverev and reached the doubles semifinals alongside Yannick Hanfmann, Koepfer returned to the tour.

After a successful stint at the Davis Cup in Hungary, the native of the Black Forest is back on the road in his adopted home. From 2013 to 2016, Koepfer pursued his studies in the United States and played college tennis for Tulane University in New Orleans. Since then, he has made his home in Tampa, Florida, and is currently competing on the American hard court circuit.

At the Dallas Open last week, Koepfer reached the quarterfinals, falling to eventual champion Tommy Paul. While he was also scheduled to compete at the Delray Beach Open, illness prevented him from participating in the singles draw. However, he competed in the doubles event alongside Australian doubles specialist Andrew Harris.

We had the opportunity to speak with the current German No. 5 at his “home tournament” in Delray Beach.

Tennis TourTalk: You’ve been dealing with health issues in recent days. How are you feeling now?

Dominik Koepfer: I caught something in Dallas and had a viral infection with fever. But since Tuesday, I’ve been feeling good and fit.

Now you’re in Delray Beach. Does it feel like a home game for you here?

In a way, yes. I drove here in three and a half hours by car. It’s just the other side of Florida, and the journey is easier than to many other tournaments.

Can you briefly outline your training situation?

After my time at the US college, I looked for a coach. I didn’t necessarily want to go back to Germany, as I didn’t have a strong connection there after four years in the States. Also, there was no support from the German Tennis Federation, so I had to find something on my own. I really liked the Saddlebrook Tennis Academy in Tampa, where many successful players have practiced, and I found a coach with whom I still work today.

You played your first ATP Challenger tournament in Germany in Heilbronn in 2017. At that time, you preferred to give interviews in English. Can it be said that you have become somewhat more “German” again in recent years on tour?

Definitely. Especially at the bigger tournaments, I’m now often on the road with the German players. My family also accompanies me more often. However, I haven’t played so many tournaments in Germany yet. Last year, I was also sidelined by an injury and spent a lot of time on the Challenger Tour. Of course, Covid didn’t help either. But this year, I’m determined to compete more in Germany.

There are some positive voices online from native speakers who praise your English and say that one can’t really tell that you’re from Germany.

It’s probably not completely accent-free, but one of my first coaches was from Ireland, which supposedly influenced my English. With him, I really learned the language, as it was my first year in the USA. I’ve been living here since 2012. You learn very quickly, and if you can’t pronounce something, you just mumble (laughs). But by now, it’s easy for me to switch between both languages.

The still relatively short season has already been eventful for you. Can you look back on the first weeks of the year?

At the beginning, I wasn’t sure whether to play the ATP event in Hong Kong or start on the Challenger Tour. The prospect of match practice was greater with the latter option, so I began the year in Canberra. To win the strongly contested tournament in the end was, of course, even better. The draw at the Australian Open against Alexander Zverev was unfortunate. But I played well, missed some chances. Reaching the doubles semifinals with Yannick Hanfmann was unexpected and a highlight. It’s a pity that we didn’t make it to the final of a Grand Slam event in the end. However, it was a lot of fun. Then came the nomination for the Davis Cup, which meant that I haven’t been home since Christmas. But it’s always great to be with the team. We also had a very good training week, and I was able to win my singles match against Fabian Marozsan. Then I flew directly to Dallas, with jetlag again. There I was already feeling a bit sick, but I played a solid match against Tommy Paul in the quarterfinals and had my chances. Overall, it was a positive start. Taking a break here this week might also be good for me. However, I didn’t want to let Andrew down in the doubles. We played together in college and shared a coach for a while.

You have been irregularly competing in doubles in recent years, but you have always been able to make an impact. What significance does this competition have for you?

It’s definitely enjoyable. Together with Yannick, we’re doing quite well in the ATP Race and will try to play the Grand Slams together. However, the focus is still on singles. Nevertheless, doubles can be helpful for that as well. As a left-hander, you also have some advantages, especially on serve.

How are you experiencing your days here in Delray Beach?

Certainly with a lot of older people on this side of Florida (laughs). It’s snowbird season, and many people spend their winter here. We’re in one of the most beautiful corners of Florida with beautiful and not too crowded beaches. Plus, there are plenty of restaurants. However, we players are not staying in Delray Beach this week, but in Boca Raton. The hotel is by the water. The weather is good. So, it could be worse.

What are your plans for the next few weeks?

Hopefully, I’ll still play in Los Cabos and Acapulco. Then come the Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami before transitioning to clay. I’ll definitely be more on the ATP Tour. The success in the Challenger at the beginning of the year has given me a certain freedom, and I’ll still be in the Top 100 after the clay season. I know I can compete with the top guys. So, I’m fully committed to tennis, and that always builds a lot of self-confidence.

And German fans can also look forward to seeing you live at the home events?

Definitely this year. The tournaments in Munich, Stuttgart, and Halle are part of my plans.

I wish you continued success, and thank you very much.

Interview: Florian Heer