When Alexandr Dolgopolov burst onto the ATP, I quickly realized I had a new favorite player. His happy-go-lucky attitude paired with his flashy game sealed the deal for me! I will mention that it hasn’t always been an easy road being on the Team Dolgo fanwagon. Convincing other tennis fans about his talent and potential to be in the top 10 on the ATP has always been a task. While staying a loyal fan through heartbreaking losses, injuries, and low percentage tennis hasn’t always been easy, Alex has remained my favorite through it all. My friends and colleagues at Tennis Warehouse have had to put up with my Dolgo chatter since they met me, and especially during this year’s BNP Paribas Open, so check out the reasons why this talented, bouncy Ukrainian is number one in my book…and hopefully climbing the rankings to make the top ten very soon.
So much natural talent! He’s quick, he hits big, and he knows how to win. Sure, his ballsy tennis doesn’t always translate into wins, but he knows how to play big and take chances. When he executes and is successful, watch out! For being one of the slighter guys on tour, he still can generate so much racquet head speed and crack the ball. Pace doesn’t bother this speedy guy either as he can cover almost any ball on the court. With a father who played and coached on the ATP, Alex grew up around great tennis and it’s no surprise that he is such a talented player. From his slingshot serve, to his simple and effective backhand — this guy has a great sense of the game and has shown success in singles and doubles.
Let’s face it, mentally, Dolgo has lots of room to grow! We are seeing some of his more disciplined tennis this week at the BNP Paribas Open, however even in his match against Rafa, he had horrible 1st serve percentages and still pulled out the win. Being the fan I am, I’ve seen how during each match he needs something to complain a little bit about — whether it is the tension of his 4G strings or the traction on his adidas Feather IIIs. It is clear that mentally he still can get stronger. He seems to have found the right coach to help him get there, which is a step in the right direction. In the past, it seemed like the coaches he chose made tennis fun (Jack Reader), but didn’t necessarily help him get the best results…watching him the past couple months, he seems to have matured a bit and while is still having fun, his discipline is getting him mentally stronger and tougher each day. Did I mention, he is back under the coaching of his father?! Oleksandr has taken the reigns after things didn’t work out with Fabrice Santoro. I think this is a great coaching combo at the moment, because who understands Alex and his quirks better than his own dad?! Clearly, it’s working!
This guy is the epitome of cool. He shakes mistakes off and smiles when he goes for low percentage shots. His interviews are calm and collected and he never gets too crazy. He beats Nadal and knows he deserved the win because of all the hard work he has been putting in. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and lives in the moment. Nothing really seems to phase him one way or another. He is still proud of himself with a good loss and he doesn’t take himself too seriously when he pulls the upset. He laughs and smiles and you can tell he has fun out there. Plus, he’s a nice guy! No, I don’t know him personally, but I’ve watched several practice sessions, interviews, and even had a bit of a pep talk with him before the Nadal match!
Ok, maybe not…but ever since I jumped on the Dolgopolov train I do my best to keep up with his results (and hair accessories). In 2011, my sister and I just so happened to start the “Team Ponytail” trend (Alex and Xavier Malisse). We made sure to be at every one of their matches all the way to the finals of the BNP Paribas Open to watch them win the title cheering on our Team Ponytail, sign and all! Yep, I can’t stop loving this guy! There’s gotta be something magic in his hair!
I’m excited to watch him take the court against Federer and can’t wait to see how the rest of the year unfolds for him. For years I have been speaking highly of Dolgo and love that he is making a name for himself this week at the BNP Paribas Open! No matter what his future looks like, there’s no doubt he will always be one of my favorites!
Play with heart and go Dolgo!