Positive Attitude Lifts Davidovich Fokina Into First Masters 1000 Semifinal

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (photo: C. Caillaud)

MONTE-CARLO/WASHINGTON, April 15, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, the first stop on the ATP Tour spring European season, reached the quarterfinal round Friday with four Top 10 seeds as well as a couple of unseeded players remaining among the final eight.

It’s one of the unseeded players, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, who won over the Court Rainier III fans with his effort and positive attitude. In the first quarterfinal of the afternoon, the 46th-ranked Spaniard won 16 of the final 18 points of the match and beat No. 10 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, in two hours and 24 minutes.

The victory advanced the exciting and entertaining Davidovich Fokina into his first Masters 1000 semifinal. He celebrated with plenty of fist pumps into the air after securing the match with a forehand winner on his second match-point opportunity. It was his second straight win over Fritz, who was the first American since 2008 to reach the Monte-Carlo quarterfinals.

“I am so, so happy,” an elated Davidovich Fokina said during his on-court interview. “Last year, I reached the quarterfinals. The emotions to be in the semifinals is like super high. I am enjoying every game, every point. It’s my job. …

“In the first set, I had a lot of chances to break the serve but I didn’t do it. But I just stayed focused and believed in myself.”

After upsetting World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic earlier in the week, the 22-year-old Davidovich Fokina brought plenty of confidence into his quarterfinal match against the World No. 13 from California after eliminating Marrakech champion David Goffin on Thursday. Throughout, he engaged the crowd and played off its energy. Although he made 42 unforced errors, he overcame that by hitting 31 winners and outpointed Fritz 105-93. The Indian Wells champion hit 24 winners and committed 36 unforced errors.

“When you beat the World No. 1, it gives you a lot of confidence physically, mentally and technically,” Davidovich Fokina, who has improved his 2022 record to 8-9 with four consecutive victories in the Principality of Monaco this week. “I am pushing myself every match every game to play harder and harder.”

Dimitrov reaches eighth Masters 1000 semifinal

On Saturday, Davidovich Fokina will oppose unseeded Grigor Dimitrov. The 29th-ranked Bulgarian, who now lives in Monte-Carlo, defeated No. 11 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2), in a match that nearly eclipsed two-and-a-half hours on Court Rainier III. The victory lifted Dimitrov into his eighth Masters 1000 semifinal and it came a day after he knocked off No. 4 seed Casper Ruud of Norway to reach the quarterfinal round. He’s now scored three Top-20 wins this week at Monte-Carlo.

“I am just going one day at a time,” Dimitrov said during his on-court interview. “I’ve put in the work – that’s all I’ve done. I’m not even thinking of how I’m playing or anything like that. I just want to [do] a lot of work.”

While each player converted three break points against the other, Dimitrov outpointed Hurkacz 96-90 to advance Now, Dimitrov has an opportunity to reach the Top 20 by defeating Davidovich Fokina.

“The season on clay is not that long so you just want to keep on building, and that’s all I’m doing right now,” Dimitrov said. “Of course, if I would have lost that match it would have been disappointing, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be too down on myself because I’ve been doing the right things.”

Zverev wins three-hour thrill over Skinner

Meanwhile, the third head-to-head meeting between No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany and No. 9 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy stretched over three hours, from late afternoon into the early evening hours, on Court Rainier III at the Monte-Carlo Country Club before a winner was determined.

Following 10 breaks of serve between the two combatants – Sinner dealt with a foot blister while Zverev nursed a right thigh problem – it was the World No. 3 Zverev, who finished with a 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over Sinner once the dust settled. The victory rewarded Zverev with his second Monte-Carlo semifinal berth. He has now won 17 of his last 19 matches on clay.

Zverev, who handled the touch and ball angles just a little bit better Sinner, outpointed the young Italian 112-101.

“It means a lot, definitely, especially [with] how this year has been going so far for me,” Zverev said following his victory, in which he outpointed Sinner 112-101. “I’ve lost long matches like that, so I’m happy I won this one.”

Looking ahead, Zverev can moved to within 235 points of World No. 1 Djokovic if he wins the Monte-Carlo title this Sunday, which would be his first trophy of 2022.

“I’ve lost so many matches [like that] this year,” Zverev added. “I guess it’s in the back of my mind and I think this one will definitely help.”

Title defense still alive, barely, for Tsitsipas

Next, Zverev will play defending Monte-Carlo champion and current No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who rallied from 0-4 down in the final set and won the final six games of the match to beat No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-4, in two hours and 43 minutes.

Tsitsipas tossed away a 5-2 lead in the second set, which Schwartzman went on to win in a tie-break. However, he gained a sense of redemption on the evening by coming back to pull out the match with six straight games won. The Greek star finished with 31 winners to 50 unforced errors, while Schwartzman put up 23 winners to 39 unforced errors.  Tsitsipas outpointed his opponent 104-96.

Tired but still clear thinking during his on-court post-match interview, Tsitsipas said:

“There was a moment in the match where I felt what I was doing wasn’t working. He had a massive lead and momentum in what he was trying to do. I just tried to stay in the match as much as I could and that worked out very well. I wasn’t expecting much at that point being a double break down, so I relaxed at that point.”

After losing nine of 10 games, Tsitsipas suddenly found his focus and rhythm and the crowd had his back.

“It was extremely close,” Tsitsipas said. “I was really close in the second set. That was the moment I had a big chance to close it out but Diego is Diego and I had to be Stefanos in the third set.”

Friday’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters results

Saturday’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters order of play

Around the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters

• Defending Monte-Carlo doubles titlists Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia, were beaten by No. 6 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both of Colombia, who advanced to their first semifinal of the 2022 season with their 6-4, t-64 victory on Court des Princes Friday afternoon.

The victory, in which a break of serve in each set was the difference, advanced the Colombia pair into the third Masters 1000 semifinal against No. 8 seeds Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Marcelo Areval0-Gonzalez of El Salvador. Rojer and Arevalo-Gonzalez advanced by walkover against Marcelo Melo of Brazil and Alexander Zverev of Germany.

• Top seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain reached the semifinals with a straightforward 6-4, 6-3 win over Tim Puetz of Germany and Michael Venus of New Zealand. The World No. 1 team of Ram and Salisbury are chasing after their first Monte-Carlo doubles title and second Masters 1000 crown overall.

Next, Ram and Salisbury will face Rohan Bopanna of India and Jamie Murray of Great Britain, who advanced with a double tie-break win over four-time Masters 1000 champions Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (8).

By the numbers

For only the third time (2001, 2018) since 2000, there are eight different countries represented in the Rolex Monte-Carlos quarterfinals. Six of the quarterfinalists are aged 25-and-under. The last time that occurred in Monte Carlo was 2009.

“Quotable …”

“After the first set, I went to the bathroom to reset my mind and to stay focused on my game. … In the last two games, I pushed myself hard and I made it. …

“From the first match I’ve been here, I’ve been enjoying every point. I just want to be focused on every point, to play harder and harder.”

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, from his sit-down interview with Tennis Channel following his 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 quarterfinal win against Taylor Fritz.