Alex Molcan enters the 2022 US Open as a Top 40 player, a vast improvement from this time last year, when he advanced through the qualifying as the World No. 138 before reaching the third round at Flushing Meadows (l. Schwartzman). He has not forgotten his roots from him.
In 2021, the Slovakian spent much of his time on the ATP Challenger Tour and attempting to qualify for Tour-level events. This season, Molcan has made it onto the ATP Tour and has found success that he eagerly awaited.
“I’m not surprised that I’m there (Top 40). I always knew if I can play well and stay healthy, I can be Top 50.” Molcan said. “I wasn’t surprised but I don’t think it came crazy fast. I was trying for many, many years to be Top 100 but I didn’t do it. Last year, it was surprising when I went from 300 to 90 at the end of the season.”
The 24-year-old holds two Challenger Tour titles, Liberec and Helsinki, which he won in 2021. After spending several years on the Challenger Tour, Molcan has many fond memories of the annual progress he has achieved.
“When I won my first Challenger, that was great. Before that, I was happy when I played some semi-finals, I was like ‘Woah, 30 points!’ and I was so happy. Three years ago, it was a great memory when I played quarter-finals. There are a lot of good memories, every year is some other memory.”
During the clay-court season this spring, Molcan reached a career-high No. 38 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Amidst his rise from him on the ATP Tour, the Presov native has found the margins are slim between the Challenger-level and the ATP Tour.
“The level at Challengers is not easier than the ATP Tour. They play the same speed of serve, same speed of forehand, of course there are some factors why the guys in the Top 20 or 30 are better, but the level is similar.”
In May, Molcan claimed his first win over a Top 10 player when he saved a match point en route to defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round of the ATP 250 event in Marrakech. The lefty then reached his second Tour-level final before falling short to David Goffin. The following month, the World No. 40 reached another final in Lyon (l. Norrie). Molcan’s first ATP Tour final came in 2021 in Belgrade, where he lost to then World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
Now, Slovakia’s top-ranked player looks to improve upon his three finals to collect his first ATP Tour title.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing. I still want to play better. I have very good coaches, every member in my team is very professional in what they do. We understand each other and we believe in each other. I played two finals (this year) at ATP 250s, could be better, because in some other tournaments I lost first or second round. I’m happy anyway with my results and still trying to improve my game.”
Djokovic’s former coach, Marian Vajda, has been working with Molcan since May. Vajda, a fellow Slovakian, spent 15 years with Djokovic. During Molcan’s first tournament teaming with the 2018 ATP Coach of the Year, he felt butterflies in his stomach as the highly rated coach looked on.
“Our first tournament together was Rome. I remember I lost in qualies first round and I was so shaky and nervous because he was there. After that, I just let it be and wasn’t thinking about that at all and since then everything is good. He has a lot of experience, he’s telling me a lot of things.”
Molcan, 26-20 this season, will face Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro in the first round of the US Open on Monday. Monteiro won their only meeting at the 2018 Szczecin Challenger.
Did You Know? Four of the 16 qualifiers from the 2021 US Open are now ranked within the Top 40 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings: Botic van de Zandschulp, Holger Rune, Maxime Cressy, and Molcan.