Editor’s note: This story was translated from ATPTour.com/es
In an attempt to temper the on-court mental rollercoaster, finding emotional equilibrium is a key part of Alejandro Davidovich Fokina’s life on the ATP Tour. The Spaniard and his team have discovered that there is no better place to train this than in everyday life. In fact, after a great campaign at the BNP Paribas Open, he had the perfect opportunity to put his training into practice.
Davidovich knew he had to be careful of the explosion of joy that came with reaching his first quarter-finals in the desert and guaranteeing himself a place in the Top 25 of the Pepperstone ATP Ranking for the first time.
“It’s a result of all the hard work,” Davidovich Fokina said. “But sometimes these things make you feel euphoric and excited, and you have to handle it calmly, because otherwise you can come back down with a crash. You have to stay level.”
But his excellent performance in Indian Wells was not the only reason he had to be wary of his emotions. He also had to draw on his new-found mental strength during his journey from California to Florida, when he was stuck in a plane at the airport for over eight hours. It was a test of the Spaniard’s new-found mental fortitude, leaving his hotel in Indian Wells at 8:15 a.m. last Wednesday only to eventually arrive at his accommodation in Miami at 11:00 a.m. the following day… without any luggage!
“The day after losing to Medvedev [in Indian Wells], we had a flight at 11:00 a.m. to Dallas and then another from Dallas to Miami,” remembers ‘Foki’ as he begins to recount his ordeal. “And halfway along they tell us that we have to divert to Austin because there was a tornado in Dallas. And we had to wait for it to go in order to continue the journey. In the end we were sitting on the plane not doing anything for eight hours.”
He spent less time competing in the California desert, and he was there for an entire fortnight. During his matches in Indian Wells, where he defeated Wu Yibing, Karen Khachanov and Cristian Garin, he spent a total of just over seven hours on court. Little did he know that he would spend almost nine trapped in a stationary plane.
At one point, the reason they were unable to take off stopped being the tornado. Their new foe became the air traffic in Austin, then fuel and poor weather and, finally, there were no new pilots available. “It was driving us all round the bend!” explains Jorge Aguirre, Davidovich’s coach, who was sitting one row in front of his understudy. “Every so often, the pilot would say, ‘We’ll be taking off soon’. And that went on for almost nine hours. It was also a small plane. Just imagine!”
Davidovich was sitting with his girlfriend, doing his best to deal with the frustration of confinement and uncertainty. “We were both fed up, telling each other that it looked like we would be there for a while. So we acted as if we were at home, watching things on the iPad,” said the 23-year-old.
The people close to him have been key to his quest for balance, and the experience of that journey is a prime example. “Everyone around me, my team, my girlfriend, my family… they are all there to keep my feet on the ground,” explained the Spaniard.
“We know that we have to help him manage his emotions in his daily life so that he is well drilled on court when it comes to dealing with things calmly, rather than angrily or emotionally,” Aguirre revealed. “The goal is for him to kind of see situations as challenges to allow him to handle them with a better perspective.”
The challenge presented by his trip to Miami is an example, and it is one that Davidovich Fokina overcame with aplomb. After the exhausting wait in Austin, they disembarked and took another direct flight to Miami, which took off at 5:30 a.m. However, once they had landed, they discovered they had no luggage. It arrived three days later!
“In the end, we decided to spend those days resting in Miami, so there were no problems in that respect,” concluded Davidovich.
Having come through the challenge of his travel nightmare, avoiding tornadoes and other setbacks, the Spaniard is now ready for his next one at the Miami Open presented by Itau, where he will play his opener against American Brandon Nakashima. His objective there is to continue to pick up points for the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.
“We’re really focused on the Race [Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin]. On this US swing, we’re concentrating on the goal of getting into the top group to try and be part of the peloton,” explains Jorge Aguirre. “The fact that he’s also now in the Top 25 of the Race is great and it shows we’re on the right path.”