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Courtside fans cheered on fast-rising Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, as he won again.
When your name is Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, that’s a lot of name to be dealing with. No wonder the exciting young Spaniard’s compatriots abbreviate it all to “Davi”. But at Roland-Garros 2019, yet another moniker has been added to the list, courtesy of the French crowd who watched him despatch the experienced Joao Domingues 6-2, 7-5, leaving the youngster just one win away from a debut Grand Slam main draw.
“On the court, I could hear the crowd calling ‘Allez Foki!’” said Davidovich Fokina, who was initially puzzled by what they were saying, but eventually tagged it as his latest nickname. “I like it! I really felt the crowd responding to me, and always the more people who are watching, the better I play.”
Whether Davi, or Foki, or Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, he is fast becoming a big name in more ways than one. Crowds everywhere are warming to his entertaining game. Already in 2019 he has leapt more than 100 places up the rankings and arrived in Paris chock-full of confidence after a splendid run to the Estoril Open semi-finals as a qualifier last month. That was just his third-ever ATP event, and saw him dismiss Gael Monfils, Jeremy Chardy and Taylor Fritz en route to his maiden last-four appearance on tour.
A Roland-Garros junior semi-finalist and Wimbledon junior champion in 2017, Davidovich Fokina is likely to feature in the year-end Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan as one of the best 21-and-under players on the circuit.
He neither looks nor plays like your average Iberian, with a shock of blond hair signposting his father’s Russian-Swedish heritage. Whisper it, but he prefers grass to clay, and cites Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic as his key influences rather than a certain Spaniard who has lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires 11 times.
In front of a packed Court 12 crowd at Roland-Garros, he brokered no resistance from Domingues in the opening set before the Portuguese threatened to take the match into a deciding set. Instead at 2-5 Davidovich Fokina reeled off five games for victory, emitting a mighty roar.
“I feel so good,” he told rolandgarros.com. “Now I have more confidence for the next match. I will be less nervous, so that I can play better. Making the main draw would be one dream for me. I work every day for this moment, and I will do everything I can to be in the main draw. I really like Roland-Garros. Everyone wants to play here and I’m lucky to be doing that.”
Barely anyone was luckier than Mikael Ymer, who was heading for a straight-sets defeat against Paris resident Johan Tatlot before the Frenchman disintegrated. Tatlot, who won his first-ever Roland-Garros qualifying match at the fifth attempt on Monday, was enjoying himself hugely at a set and 5-2 up, relishing the 2,000-strong crowd’s support on Court 14, regularly exhorting them to up the noise still further.
But victory never came. Six times he held match point, yet he was powerless to prevent Ymer snatching 11 of the last 13 games to take the win 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-1.
“I’m tired,” admitted Ymer, whose older brother Elias had already departed Paris after losing in the first round of qualifying on Monday. “Mixed emotions. I didn’t feel too good out there and I was very stiff in my game. I’m relieved I’ll have the chance now to reach my first-ever Grand Slam main draw. That would be so special. But it could have gone either way and I feel a bit for him [Tatlot] too.”
He will play Henri Laaksonen who had to come back from a set down to overcome Facundo Arguello 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Elsewhere, top qualifying seed Tennys Sandgren overwhelmed Mats Moraing 6-2, 6-2, while Dustin Brown eased past Emilio Gomez 6-2, 7-5. Ex-world No.12 Victor Troicki stayed on course for his ninth appearance in the main draw by beating Jason Kubler 6-1, 7-6(9), and the former world No.31 Sergiy Stakhovsky saw off Uladzimir Ignatik 7-6(2), 6-4.
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