BRATISLAVA. At the beginning of the year, tennis player Alex Molčan and his coach set high goals. Move up more than a hundred places in the rankings and get to the grand slam tournaments at least in the position of a qualifier.
He basically managed to fulfill it at the end of June at Wimbledon.
But his progress did not stop there. In the last grand slam tournament of the year, the US Open, he sensationally advanced from the qualification to the main competition, where after excellent performances he was eliminated only in the 3rd round, when he was not enough for Diego Schwartzman’s world fourteen.
When he first took part in the main grand slam competition, he was surprised. He survives the life season and definitely belongs to the jumpers of the year.
“And I am convinced that Alex had the opportunity to move even further at the US Open. Schwartzman was a very difficult opponent for him. The two are similar, but Schwartzman is a champion in his game. I can imagine the players in the third round with whom it could turn out differently, “says coach Ladislav Simon.
Molčana has been leading for three years. Of the fourth hundred in the ATP, they approached the first during the year.
“Alex is hardworking, mostly in a good mood. The energy you put into it also returns. Maybe such a success at the grand slam is beyond expectations, but the plan was that it would approach the 150th place, “explains Simon. It is clear that this year will end above the plan.
The biggest lesson came from Djokovic
Molčan surprised everyone, even himself.
The 22-year-old left-handed man says that his improvement is mainly due to his self-confidence. He trusts himself more on the court and can prevail even in difficult positions and exchanges.
According to Molčan, the turning point of the season was the May tournament in Belgrade, where he sensationally advanced from qualifying to the final against world unit Novak Djokovic.
“It was the greatest lesson I have ever learned. In that final against Djokovic, I saw how to play tennis. I realized a lot of things as it should look at the world level. The key is to make a minimum of mistakes. Losing with Schwartzman also taught me a lot. I used both to my advantage, “says Molčan.
He led the opponents into despair
Simon reminds that in Belgrade Molčan played well before the final with Djokovic. He also eliminated the former world number seven Fernando Verdasco or the strong Argentine Delbonis.
“But if you then play against the best player in the world, maybe even history, and you can take his hand and play a balanced match with him, then you don’t have to humiliate yourself in front of anyone. But that doesn’t mean Alex is on the level of Djokovic. It has to be taken humbly, “says Simon.
In addition to self-confidence, his protégé changed the game on the court. In the past, he played rather defensively and often made mistakes, illustrates the coach.
“Today it is much less defensive, and it corrupts little. That’s a double plus. At the US Open, he led opponents into despair, keeping the ball on the court even in breakneck positions. When they were able to adapt to it, Alex knew how to add it. You ran into a net or had a good serve. He always knew how to find the way at a given moment, “he says.
“Sometimes I get hit also by the fact that I feel good on the court,” adds Molčan.
He has a great chance to move
He is only 23 years old. Next season, he would like to reach the top 100 and at the Australian Open he would like to play in the main competition again.
In the new edition of the ATP ranking, it should move to the 116th place. He has both goals within reach. However, Simon points out that the current world ranking is not as telling as in the past. In the rankings, several players kept points for the world pandemic, even though they could not defend them.
“The time is specific and the scoring is not very informative. Alex is in 58th place in the ATP Race standings. If the points were counted as before the pandemic, he would be around 80th in the ATP. Really, his position will be shown sometime in May, “he estimates.
His protégé has a great opportunity to move even higher, because he does not defend many points from last season in the autumn or at the beginning of the year.
Tennis is like climbing
Simon reminds us that success is not a matter of course and although Molčan is playing steadily, this does not mean that he will advance to the 3rd round in the next grand slam.
“I would compare tennis to mountaineering. When you get to one of the peaks, if you want to get to the next one, you have to go down to the base camp, get ready again before you can go to the next one. You can’t jump from one top to another. Now you need to quickly go to base camp, recharge your batteries, train, sort your thoughts and work. Today, talent alone is not enough, because everyone works, “he says.
Molčan was already one of the world’s best in his junior age. He even has a junior title from the Australian Open in doubles. But during the transition among seniors, it fell in the rankings. On the contrary, the players he was able to beat at the time, such as Andrej Rubľov and Hubert Hurkacz, are at the top today.
He himself admits that he relaxed at puberty and did not just play tennis. He admitted to the NY Times that he also liked to drink.
“I was stupid. I played even matches with Rublov and Hurkacz. Today, Hurkacz is tenth in the world and I am one hundredth. But I had help from the NTC, they trusted me and were very supportive. If I had the opportunity today to send advice to myself five to six years ago, it would be: Don’t be silly, “recalls the Slovak tennis player.
“It was the age at which the opponents gained experience. They devoted themselves to tennis, I relaxed. That’s why I got higher later. I still have a lot of robots ahead of me. But I love tennis, I live it to the fullest and I always believed I had it so that I can make a living from it. “
This season, however, he came to important knowledge. He found that he was in a position to match a strong opponent. According to Ladislav Simon, this is very important.
“If you can’t even imagine anything, you can’t succeed. If someone dreams and can imagine winning, they can do it. But it’s not enough to dream of me playing the main competition, it’s not enough to make you a champion, “adds Simon.