Donskoy Boosted By Kaohsiung Title
With one eye already on 2018, Evgeny Donskoy has picked the right time to regain his form. After toppling Roger Federer, then earning an ATP Challenger Tour title in back-to-back weeks earlier in the year, Donskoy made a return to the winners' circle by defeating Marius Copil 7-6(0), 7-5 in the Kaohsiung OEC Open final on Sunday.
Despite not dropping his serve against Copil, Donskoy credits his baseline game as the key to victory.
"My game from the baseline worked best for me last week," Donskoy said. "I tried to play with good speed. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. I didn't serve unbelievably, but it was my baseline game that was pretty good for me here; that was the key to winning."
With the victory, Donskoy jumped 15 spots in the Emirates ATP Rankings (highest since No. 69 in August 2016), bumped his total number of Challenger titles to 11 and successfully navigated his way past a host of contenders. He also managed to enjoy the overall experience in the process.
"This is a big Challenger; I think I've only won two or three of these at the $125,000 prize money level," Donskoy said. "There were really good players here in Kaohsiung.
"This week is my first in Taiwan in general and I enjoyed it here. It's nice that many people came out to watch, even when the Taiwanese guys aren't playing. That's good that they are really fans of the sport."
It's the Emirates ATP Rankings points, however, that the 27-year-old Russian coveted most. Now at No. 74, Donskoy is just nine spots off his career-high of 65 (July 2013) and is eager to enter bigger events next year.
"Winning this tournament means a lot for me, especially now toward the end of the season," Donskoy said. “It's good to have these [Emirates ATP Rankings] points going into next season and I can use them to enter big tournaments in 2018."
Donskoy's 2017 campaign kicked off impressively. He earned the biggest victory of his career when, as a qualifier, he reached his first ATP World Tour 500 quarter-final by defeating Federer 6-3, 7-6(7), 7-6(5) at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Donskoy, No. 116 in the Emirates ATP Rankings at the time, staved off three match points against Federer, who was playing in his second match since capturing the Australian Open in January. It marked just the third time since 2007 that Federer was defeated by a qualifier (2013 Hamburg vs Delbonis; 2015 Shanghai vs Ramos). A week later, he earned his first Challenger title of the season by defeating Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 6-4 in Zhuhai, China.
The intent was to parlay those results into more success throughout the year, but illness nearly derailed those plans.
In August, Donskoy was a finalist at the Chengdu Challenger and a week later, he lost in the semi-finals of the Jinan Challenger in a walkover after falling ill. Donskoy is relieved the illness didn't keep him sidelined for long and that he was able to find his form before the year's end.
"I was playing at a Challenger in Jinan before the US Open and I got sick pretty badly," Donskoy said. "But I'm happy that I recovered fast and winning this tournament in Taiwan gives me a lot of confidence. We'll see what happens in the coming weeks."