The eighth Player to Watch for 2014 is the fifth former ITF World Junior #1 to be featured. Not that junior success is a firm predictor of future success, of course, but it clearly was a main criterion for selection — even subconsciously — this year.
Now, some will accuse me of picking this player just because of the numerous and nearly irresistible punning opportunities he provides. (And those people would only be 43.6% correct.)
But really, we need to convince our inner twelve-year-olds to get beyond the first four letter of his surname and instead zero in on the fourth full year of his pro career, which is coming up next year. Besides, it’s not like he’s this guy:
So let’s just get over it and clear our minds and hearts to welcome my eighth Player to Watch for 2014, Mr. Marton Fucsovics. (Although, it should be said, his nickname of “Marci” is only marginally less make-funnable.)
A 2010 singles winner at the The Junior Championships, Wimbledon (defeating Ben Mitchell) as well as singles semifinalist in New York and Melbourne and a US Open boys doubles titlist, the 21-year-old Hungarian lad is finally coming on after his “lost year” of 2011 (in which, some say, he let his ITF-page professed love of girls and motorbikes get in the way of his tennis and training).
As a kid, he wanted to play basketball, but the 6’2” (188 cm) right-hander from the easy-to-pronounce city of Nyiregyhaza found a greater affinity with tennis as he got older. Then came the girls and motorbikes and – after his junior Slammin’ exploits — going the Gulbis route of, er, celebrating his success a bit too much, all to the tune of a 21/18 season at Futures level in 2011.
He actually did a meet-and-beat* with Mr. Gulbis in a five-set April-of-2012 Davis Cup match, but couldn’t seem to kick on from there, making his first Futures finals but finishing the ’12 campaign at #441 in the rankings (up 132 spots on the year). Around that time, though, he finally recommitted himself and got back to working hard at the game he can play so well.
He’s been training with coach Oliver Tauma at ISP Academy in Nice (and it really is quite Nice) for nine months or so, and is seeing great results. “I came here, I was [ATP ranking] 550, and now I’m 250. So I’m doing a good job here with the coaches, we understand each other… so I hope I will stay some more years here,” he said last month.
Indeed, with his first career titles coming at the An-Ning and Andria Challenger this year, Marton’s seen his ranking rise 262 places since the start of this year, to where he currently sits at a career-high ATP #179.
At this years World Tour Finals in October, Marton found himself a hitting partner to the stars, practicing with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga among others. In fact, Google Translate has reliably informed me that Marci characterized his session with one of those others, a certain Roger Federer, as “spinning your brains all over your nervous system gradually.” Sounds about right.
The first thing you notice about his game is the clean, crisp ball-striking — somewhat reminiscent of a Tomas Berdych, albeit with a bit more top off the forehand wing. Can crank the serve, but needs a bit more consistency. He also has very good feel in general, but especially with the return of serve. On his ATP bio, he cites his lob as his favorite shot, which is again in keeping with his excellent hands and shot-making skill.
Skip to 4 minutes into this video to see some highlights of his Andria final against Dustin Brown that you can dance to:
Though he’s in the far court and not playing points, you can get a good sense of his groundies from this video of his aforementioned smack-around with Djokovic:
Lastly, here’s some of his Wimbleboys final against Mitchell:
“Next year the 150th place in the target, 21 years old and still very fond of tennis, although a few years ago when I came back to Hungary I got hot and cold hard time it was my life at home, and I regret that I did not around the right people myself in tennis and in private life,” he Google-translatedly said in London.
But now, with a clear head and good people around him — plus undeniable amounts of talent — it will be exciting to see where 2014 takes him.
*the first draft of this article had a rather unfortunate typo here — glad I caught it!