After Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov upset Canada’s Milos Raonic in the BNP Paribas Open quarterfinals on Thursday, the victorious No. 28 seed tossed some autographed souvenirs into the cheering crowd.
The souvenirs didn’t come in the form of a sweatband or towel, as is the norm for players to hand out in the head of post-match celebrations. Instead, Dolgopolov tossed his shoes.
“It’s better to throw them to people than throw them in the [trash],” Dolgopolov said in press, smiling. “I slide a lot, and when I drag my left leg and the court is sticky, I go through one pair of shoes in a match.”
The Kiev native burned all that rubber in his defeat of the Canadian No. 10 seed 6-3, 6-4, giving him his first semifinal berth at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event. This is on the heels of Dolgopolov’s stunning victory over top seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal in the third round, and an upset of No. 13 Fabio Fognini in the Round of 16.
While the tennis world is still abuzz with Dolgopolov’s big upset of the defending champion, the five-foot-11 Dolgopolov is focused on his own game, and his goal to win the BNP Paribas Open.
“With my game I always believed I can beat anyone on a good day because I hit flat,” Dolgopolov explained. “I have the shots. I wasn't consistent enough, that's true. But I knew if I could get that consistency that I can trouble anyone.”
Long a player with a “next generation” label stamped on his back, Dolgopolov broke through at the 2011 Australian Open, beating a higher-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and making the quarterfinals. He’s reached the second week of a major just once since.
But this week in Indian Wells Dolgopolov’s confidence is on the upswing, gaining momentum even before his run in the desert this week.
“I understand my game pretty well. I think I'm quite good tactically, said the world No. 31, who plays a flat, attacking style of tennis. “I have a lot of advantages that I can use a lot of shots. I'm a bit unorthodox.”
He joins a small group of players that are challenging the status quo in men’s tennis, including Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka, South African Kevin Anderson, Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis, among others – and sees this influx of new faces as a natural part of the tennis cycle.
“That's life. All of us get older,” said Dolgopolov, who owns two singles titles in his career. “Every generation is going to go and the younger ones are going to push. But I think it's good for the tour, you know, that the people see new people playing, new players. It's more fun that way.”
Fun especially for Dolgopolov, who was ranked a career-high No. 13 two years ago and is now into his best run so far in four consecutive appearances in Indian Wells. He’ll need to stay at this level when he faces the winner of the quarterfinal between Kevin Anderson and Roger Federer on Saturday.
“I'll just come out, do my best. We'll see how it goes,” Dolgopolov said. “I'm confident enough to come out and play good tennis. Then who knows, you know? I beat a lot of good players around here, so I don’t see why I can’t win two more matches.”