Before the start of the tiebreaks in the fourth movement, the audience rose at Louis Armstrong Stadium in New York. They had done so often in Dominik Köpfer's and Daniil Medvedev's previously played 2:27 hours of this round of 16, whenever the German scored a spectacular point.
But now the nearly 10,000 spectators stood up, because they realized that Köpfer needed their support. He had to win at the standings of 6: 3, 3: 6, 2: 6 and 6: 6 this tiebreak to prevent the end at the US Open. And the audience, in turn, apparently wanted to see more of this 25-year-old, whose names only a few days ago knew only insiders.
All the applause, the press of the thumb and the "Let's go, Köpfer" calls did not help, the qualifier was defeated by the World Ranking Fifth in four sets. "That was a fantastic experience today, I've never played in front of so many people calling my name," says Köpfer after the match.
As refreshing as he appeared on the tennis courts in Flushing Meadows, he also gives himself to the media. When Köpfer speaks, he also says something. And so, for example, he talked eloquently about his time at Tulane University, where he studied finance and played tennis.
In the college league NCAA, team spirit is paramount. It's about the team, not the individual player. And part of it is played under conditions that are not found on any ATP tournament. "19-year-old drunken students, trash talk from the stands - that's the point," says Köpfer. "But that's what matters."
His studies are also the reason why Köpfer is hardly known in his homeland. Anyone who plays in the US at college, moves outside the German radar. In childhood and adolescence Köpfer played golf as well as tennis and was passionate about skiing. Only at age 16, when others competed in international tournaments, did he take tennis a little more seriously, training "three or four times a week, not just once or twice," he says.
"Sometimes there were five spectators"
He had gone to the US Open with the goal of surviving the three qualifying rounds and getting into the peloton. He made it to the second round. In his career so far, the left-hander has recorded at $ 332,732 since 2016, according to atptour.com, and has now earned $ 280,000 in New York.
"I've improved from match to match," said Köpfer. So far, his stage were mostly second-rate Challenger tournaments. Who opens there, often plays in the exclusion of the public. "Sometimes," says Köpfer, "there were five spectators and occasionally only my coach was there."
And that's why the contrast on Sunday could not have been greater when Köpfer arrived at Armstrong Stadium. The fact that the match was a home game, was partly because the Americans underdog stories like his love. In addition, Medvedev is the bad boy for the New Yorker, since he had ripped in the round previously a ball child handing him the towel out of his hand and then tapped his middle finger to the temple.
Jason DeCrow / AP
Daniil Medvedev: "Just keep it up"
Köpfer played as if not more than 10,000 people were sitting around him. As if this was not the most important game of his career. The man who wears his white baseball cap as if he were in a hurry and therefore did not have time to set it right, led 6: 3, 2: 0. But then Medvedev turned on.
Köpfer should also have caused the burdens of the past few weeks. Of all the eighth-finalists he had to cover the longest route due to the qualification. The match against Medvedev was his seventh in New York. "Just go ahead and you'll become an incredible player," Medvedev told him on the net.
He knew, said Köpfer, that "this run will change my life."