A 22-year-old Ukrainian took over the Australian Open with a breakthrough performance that would make the creators of True Blood envious. Alexandr Dolgopolov advanced to the quarterfinals in Melbourne with back-to-back wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling. For a youngster who had only once previously reached the third round of a major, the performance has been stunning.
Dolgopolov came back from down two sets to one to rout Tsonga 6-1, 6-1 in the final two sets of their third-round match. Tsonga is a former finalist at the Aussie Open, so the win was extremely meaningful. The Ukrainian’s next surprise came in the fourth round — an upset win over Robin Soderling in five sets. Soderling was seeded fourth for the tournament and was 7-0 on the year until the loss. Dolgopolov showed off a range of shots, mixing in slices and spin to confuse Soderling. He attempted more of the same in the quarters but struggled against five seed Andy Murray.
Alexandr has an unconventional game highlighted by a surprise element to many of his shots. He serves like he’s riding a rocking chair on speed, and he smacks his forehand like a jockey whipping a horse. Dolgopolov has a good two-handed backhand but he frequently mixes in a one-handed slice with a ton of spin. His backhand is strong and his forehand is monstrous, and the other big part of his game is his movement; he has excellent speed and fantastic court coverage. The two elements of his game that need work is his shot selection and return game. Against Murray, he hardly won a point on service returns. Dolgopolov frequently pulled out drop shots and seemed to go for many low-percentage winners when they were not necessary.
Though the run for Dolgopolov came to an end in the quarterfinals against Andy Murray, he appears to be a player to watch for in the future.