16 Jul 2017

Fokina ends Spain's 50-year drought

News Article

Photo: Martin SidorjakAxel Geller (ARG) and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP)

Twenty-five years since the last American winner of the girls’ singles at junior Wimbledon, 50 years since the last Spanish winner of the boys’ singles it would seem more spells have been broken here than in Sleeping Beauty. 

Sleep must feel a particularly appealing option to Axel Geller, the Argentine 18-year-old who complained of feeling tired before his first singles match. How he managed to last the whole competition, going through to the final day in both singles and doubles is anyone’s guess.

He didn’t get back to his hotel until 11.30pm after his doubles semifinal on Saturday because of press commitments and recovery treatment, but refused to use that as an excuse for his 76(2) 63 defeat to the blonde-haired Spaniard, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, in Sunday’s singles final.

Victory in the boys’ doubles final a short while later with his partner from Taipei, Yu Hsiou Hsu (a member of the International 18 and Under ITF/GSDF Teams to Europe), against Jurij Rodionov, of Austria, and Michael Vrbensky, of Czech Republic, by a 64 64 scoreline was, understandably, no consolation.

“I was really tired, but it’s not an excuse,” said Geller. “He deserved to win.”

Geller’s big chance to give himself fresh legs, mentally if not physically, came on a break point on the Fokina serve at 4-3 up when he got to a drop shot with time to spare – perhaps too much time – and missed a simple forehand put-away.

“I don’t want to think about that ball deciding the whole match, but it was new balls so he wouldn’t have broken me and it would have been first set to me,” said Geller with some truth – his serve was the hardest in the competition. He once aced Fokina with a 135 mph delivery.  

However, full credit to Fokina, who didn’t drop a set throughout the competition.

The Spaniard was no lightweight either when it came to his groundstrokes but he also has the capacity to play with some subtlety. What had been an evenly contested first set for the most part suddenly became one-sided in the tiebreak and the second set as the boy from Malaga of Russian extraction dominated a tiring opponent.

When his adroit backhand drop shot sealed victory he came over all Pat Cash and ran up to his box to hug his coaches and girlfriend. Fortunately for him, access to the player’s box on Court One is a lot less perilous than it is on Centre Court.

Like a boxer who comes across a hard puncher he will remember the bombs that Geller rained down on him for much of that first set, which lasted 52 minutes. “Later on I was talking with him,” Fokina said, “I say, ‘Man, you serve so hard, I can’t see the ball’. [It] was like I was facing [Ivo] Karlovic. I don’t know what he is doing with his serve.”

Both players had to contend with playing on the biggest court of their lives – Court No. 1 – on the biggest day of their fledgling careers. Fokina said: “I was thinking, 'I will not think about that. I will think I want to win this. I want to show to the people who I am, that I want to play tennis, professional tennis. I want to show them what I want to do with my life’.”

Fokina certainly did that. We should be hearing a lot more of him and Geller in the years to come. Who knows, they may one day even emulate an achievement or two of the 1998 junior Wimbledon champion – Roger Federer.