The Miracle of Marton Fucsovics – Hungary’s Top Tennis Player Realizes His Potential

In February it will be exactly one year since I wrote my first post mentioning Marton Fucsovics. At the time, he was Hungary’s top tennis player, but that was about the extent of his fame. Fucsovics was ranked #163 back then. He looked to be headed for journeyman status. In tennis parlance that means a career toiling away at second tier challenger events in provincial European cities. By the beginning of 2017, Fucsovics had been playing on the pro tour for five and a half years. The great promise Fucsovics had shown when he won the 2010 Wimbledon Boys’ Singles Championship looked to be a thing of the past. Then something remarkable happened, Fucsovics began to play the best tennis of his life. His rise in the rankings was steady. He achieved a career high of #109 prior to Wimbledon, after he won a grass court challenger event in Ilkley, England. This gained him a main draw spot at the All England Club.

In the autumn of 2017 the man who goes by the nickname of Marci, broke inside the top 100 for the first time ever. This occurred after he qualified for the main draw at the ATP Tour event in Basel, Switzerland where he made it to the quarterfinals before losing a close three setter to fourth ranked Marin Cilic. Fucsovics finished the season ranked at a career high of #85. As the self-anointed personal record keeper of Marton Fucsovics, I could not have been more pleased. His 2017 season was more than his small, but growing group of fans could have hoped for. Marci from Nyiregyhaza was on the verge of becoming a household name in his tennis starved homeland of Hungary if he could manage to stay in the top 100. As the 2018 season began, I began to worry if Fucsovics would be able to achieve the same high level of results he had during 2017. That worry has now vanished due to the miracle of Marton Fucsovics.

On the verge of a major breakthrough - Fucsovics ranking prior to the Australian Open

On the verge of a major breakthrough – Fucsovics’ ranking prior to the Australian Open

The Notable Nyiregyhazan – Scorching The Competition
Only two notable residents are listed on the English language Wikipedia page for Nyiregyhaza, a small city in eastern Hungary. One of whom is the famous children’s book author, Gabor Nogradi. The other is a female Hungarian pop singer by the name of Ibolya Olah. It should not be long before Marton Fucsovics’ name is listed alongside them. That is because Fucsovics is playing tennis at a level that has not been seen from a Hungarian since Balazs Taroczy in the 1980’s. To put it bluntly, Fucsovics has started off the season on fire and is now positively scorching. The analogy is appropriate since Fucssovics has garnered the best results of his career in Australia, where he is just as hot as the weather. He arrived Down Under in the Australian capital to play the Canberra Challenger as a warm up for the Australian Open. He proceeded to sail through the draw to the final with only the loss of a single set. In the final, he faced the Italian veteran Andreas Seppi. Fucsovics won the first set, but dropped the next two. Nevertheless, getting to the final led to his highest ranking ever at #80.

The result gave Fucsovics momentum as he headed to Melbourne for the Australian Open, the year’s first Grand Slam event. Grand Slam tournaments are where rising players solidify their status and the best players etch their name in history. Coming into the Australian Open, Fucsovics had never won a match in the main draw of a Grand Slam event, though he had come closest at the U.S. Open this past August where he lost in a fifth set tiebreaker to the Frenchman Nicholas Mahut. Coming off his runner-up finish in Canberra, Fucsovics had good reason to believe he could finally break through for his first Grand Slam tournament victory. This hope was tempered by the thought of what happened to Fucsovics last year at the Australian Open. He had lost in the first round of qualifying to a young Australian, Bradley Mousley, who was ranked #529 at the time. It would turn out to be the worst loss Fucsovics suffered in 2017. Of course, there was another way of looking at this result. Fucsovics could not do any worse at the Australian in 2018 than he had in 2017. He really had nothing to lose and everything to gain this time, including valuable ranking points.

Hungarian Hero - Marci signs an autograph for a young fan at the Australian Open

Hungarian Hero – Marci signs an autograph for a young fan at the Australian Open

Everything To Gain – The Confidence Man
His first round opponent was a fellow Eastern European, the diminutive Moldovan journeyman Radu Albot. The two had played four times previously, with Fucsovics winning three of those meetings. The Hungarian’s greatest advantage over Albot is physical. He is five inches taller than the Moldovan. Fucsovics power game would end up overwhelming Albot in four sets, as he won three-quarters of the points on his first serve. He also hit 13 more winners, while feasting on Albot’s weak serve, which he broke nine times. It is difficult to imagine just how big this first round victory was for Fucsovics. He gained a boost to his confidence that would bode well for his next match. He would be a decided underdog against the top ranked American player in the world, #13 seed Sam Querry.

Prior to his second round encounter with Querry, Fucsovics had never beaten anyone ranked higher than 36th in the world. Marci proved there is a first time for everything in 2018, as he defeated Querry in four sets. This time he won 82% of his first serve points. The key moment came in the second set when he was able to win a tiebreaker 8-6. Fucsovics also teed off when returning Querry’s second serve. Just like in the Albot match, Fucsovics won over half of his opponent’s second serve points. With this win, Fucsovics entered a new stage of his career. For the first time ever, Fucsovics had beaten a player in the world’s top 20. His reward was a third round match with a man he had already handily defeated earlier this year, the Argentine Nicholas Kicker. Fucsovics once again thoroughly dominated Kicker, only allowing him seven games. He did this with the same winning formula from his previous victories, winning 63% of Kicker’s second serve points and out slugging him from the baseline by hitting twenty more winners. Fucsovics’ confidence is now at an all-time high and it has showed. He has been steamrolling the opposition.

The ultimate challenge - Fucsovics faces Federer in the 4th Round of the Australian Open

The ultimate challenge – Fucsovics faces Federer in the 4th Round of the Australian Open

Realizing Potential –  Scaling New Heights
It is hard to imagine a more thrilling tournament up to this point for Fucsovics. He has now guaranteed himself a quarter of a million dollars in prize money, a ranking in the world’s top 60 and most importantly a fourth round matchup with the player many consider the greatest ever, Roger Federer. It is a daunting, but well-deserved match for Fucsovics. He has spent the past twelve months working his way up to this point. Fucsovics has put himself in a great position with nothing to lose. Compared to where he was at this time last year, mired in the obscure world of tennis’ lower ranks, he has come farther than anyone could have expected. What led to his resurgence? There were big victories in Davis Cup, a title and multiple finals in Challenger level tournaments. These achievements did not necessarily point to his breakthrough at the Australian Open. Perhaps it has been something outside the world of tennis that has helped him scale new heights. Just two months ago, Fucsovics was engaged to get married. Success both on and the court have coalesced, leading to the miracle of Marton Fucsovics, a Magyar sportsman finally realizing his potential.

A Star Is Slowly Born – Marton Fucsovics At #99 : Consumed By A Dream

Dreams are intensely personal experiences. They usually take place late at night in a sleep-induced state of altered consciousness. There is something both magical and unreal about them. Afterwards we awake, wondering if the dream was real. Of course, the dream was real in the sense that it occurred, but what happened in the dream only happened in our mind, not in reality. I just experienced the opposite effect, a dream that came true in reality, but that I could never quite conceive of in my mind until it actually took place. The dream occurred in broad daylight, on Monday July 17th, when the newest version of the world rankings for the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour was released. For the first time ever, Hungarian Marton Fucsovics entered the top 100.

As the self-appointed personal record keeper of Fucsovics I felt a wave of elation, a euphoric shiver shot through me. It was only a bit later that I felt a bit of shame. The shame fell upon me because I knew that I had not been a true believer. I never really could imagine that Fucsovics would break into the top 100. His new world ranking had been as much a shock as it was a delight. Nevertheless, Fucsovics had reached this personal milestone with or without my belief. Such an achievement calls for celebration and retrospection. It is time to take a closer look at how Fucsovics got to where he is at today.

Marton Fucsovics - ascended to the Top 100 last week

Marton Fucsovics – ascended to the Top 100 last week

The Man From Nyrigehaza – The Long Road In Retrospect
Marton Fucsovics is not only one of the best Hungarian tennis players of the professional era, but most certainly the greatest player to ever hail from the eastern Hungarian city of Nyrigehaza. This is an unlikely place for a pro tennis player to come from. Most of Hungary’s other pro players came from the Budapest area. I have spent a fair amount of time in Nyrigehaza and must confess that I have never seen any tennis courts or sports facilities other than the ubiquitous soccer fields which can be found everywhere in Hungary. This makes Fucsovics achievement all the more impressive. When he first started smacking balls at the age of five with his father, few would have thought that exactly twenty years later he would be in the top 100. Obviously many of those close to him spotted his talent early on. He impressed with excellent results as a junior in 2010, with a Wimbledon championship and semifinal showings at the Australian and U.S. Opens.

Fucsovics joined the tour in 2011. It took him a couple of years to rise out of the lonely and lowly ranks of the satellite tour. To get from the 900’s to 300’s meant playing tiny events from the Czech Republic to China in an often futile search to procure coveted ranking points. This must have taken an incredible amount of self-belief. Imagine how Fucsovics felt after losing to #1027th ranked qualifier Chuwan Wang in the first round of a Chinese satellite event in 2011 or the indignity of suffering a loss to #1340th ranked Dane Marc Ferrigno in Israel. Slowly ever so slowly, Fucsovics clawed his way up the rankings. He reached the top 300 in 2013 and the top 200 in 2014. Then his ranking stalled out. For the next two years he seesawed between the #150 to #250 range. By the spring of 2016, Fucsovics looked like he would be forever stuck playing challenger events.

For the record - #99 ranked Marton Fucsovics

For the record – #99 ranked Marton Fucsovics

A Whole New Level – Fucsovics Rising
At 24 years old, he had reached an age when most men’s tennis pros begin to reach their peak, the problem was that Fucsovics had played enough matches through the years to provide a representative sample of just how far he could ascend in the rankings. It looked like he had topped out. That was until the improbable happened. Starting in May 2016, Fuscosvics began to produce good results on the Challenger tour with a startling amount of consistency. Over the last half of that year, he made one Challenger tournament final, two semifinals and four quarterfinals at such exotic locales as Prostelov, Recanati and Segovia. These results were a harbinger of better things to come. After losing three of his first five matches in 2017, Fucsovics went on another run. With two titles and a runner-up finish, he raised his ranking to #109. This was where he found himself last week in the Braunschweig Challenger in Germany. He knew that a good showing just might be enough to push him into the top 100. The pressure was on, especially since his first opponent was one of the better players in the draw, Guido Pella, an Argentine, who was the 8th seed. Fucsovics squeaked by 10 -8 in a first set tiebreaker, then lost the second set before breaking Pella multiple times in the third set to win the match.

In his next two matches, he romped over lower ranked opponents yielding only nine games. That put him in the semifinals against #500 ranked Nicola Kuhn. On paper it looked like an easy victory for the Hungarian, but matches are not won or lost based on rankings. Kuhn’s ranking was deceptive. At seventeen years old, he was only playing in his second Challenger event ever. He even had to qualify for the main draw. Fucsovics lost the first set, but pulled even by winning the second. It came down to a handful of points where the younger Kuhn was a bit more aggressive as he took the match in three sets and went on to win the tournament. As for Fucsovics, his semifinal finish was just enough to pull him eight spots higher in the world rankings. He entered the week ranked 99th, a dream come true!

A dream come true - Marton Fucsovics became the first Hungarian men's tennis player in the top 100 since 2003

A dream come true – Marton Fucsovics became the first Hungarian men’s tennis player in the top 100 since 2003

A New Ceiling – The Window Of Opportunity
The tennis world barely batted an eye. Players come and go in the ATP top 100 every week, though Hungarians are much rarer. Fucsovics became the first Hungarian men’s player in the top 100 since Attila Savolt in March 2003. A 14-year drought has been broken, at least for now. It is likely that Fucsovics will fall back several places after this week. He is due to lose 33 ranking points from last year’s semifinal finish at Recanti. Nonetheless, he has an excellent opportunity in the coming months to stabilize his position. The question will be whether he can win at the ultimate level, the ATP World Tour. His record in the main draw of Tour level events is a desultory 3-10. On the other hand, Fucsovics has never played so consistently well before in his career. An even greater breakthrough may be yet to come. He can always dream and it would be wrong to doubt him. I know this from personal experience.