Pint-sized dynamo Teodor Davidov is single-highhandedly shaking up the junior tennis world with his unique ambidextrous style.
Where do you hit the ball when your adversary seamlessly switches hands in mid-rally and has two excellent one-handed forehands without a backhand to attack?
That’s the case for 11-year-old, 4-foot-6 Davidov, the No. 1 seed in the Boys’ 12s, who rolled into the quarterfinals of the USTA Junior Orange Bowl International Championships on the clay courts of Salvadore Park on Saturday with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Tam Sin Shang of Hong Kong.
Davidov’s unorthodox style has created head-scratching problems for his opponents as evident from his recent victory in the prestigious Level 2 Eddie Herr tournament in Bradenton, about a lob away from where the Bulgarian native trains at Inspiration Academy.
“Both of his shots are the same, mostly cross-court and he has a very good shot down the line,’’ said Mark Mrcela, 12, who lost to Davidov in the quarterfinals of Eddie Herr. “It’s hard to know which side is worse.”
Davidov has become a social media sensation since video of his style went viral during his quarterfinal run in the Easter Bowl. A natural right-hander when eating his vegetarian, gluten-free diet, he takes his quirky strokes even further by serving right-handed to the deuce court and left-handed in the ad court, sending his opponents out wide to set up an easy cross-court groundstroke winner.
“I love it and will always do it,’’ Davidov said. “I like to show them different spins.”
His father, Kalin, the mastermind of the two-forehand approach, has a master’s degree in high sports performance, as well as a bachelor’s degree in physical education and tennis coaching.
“I never planned this to give any strategic or tactical advantages in tennis,’’ said Kalin, who moved the family from Bulgaria to Denver when Teodor was 18 months old.
“I thought it might be better to balance his personality and become a better version of himself, so I started experimenting with him hitting left-handed when he was 8 years old.
“Yoga is a driving force in our family life so I’m trying to use tennis as a method of self-development. I’m not just training a great tennis player, for me this is secondary. A balanced life is our goal.”
After brutal matches, Davidov often receives massages from his mother, Elina, or Kalin, who are both licensed physical therapists and masseuses.
Wilson tennis endorsement coach Jaushwa Russell marvels at Davidov’s fearlessness.
“He doesn’t have anything that resembles a backhand,’’ Russell said. “He has no fear and that’s what separates him from some of the other players who have good strokes and good balance but they’re only using about a 75 percent swing speed versus their max. The majority of his swings are full-fledged swings, and it doesn’t matter how big the point.”
The only pro currently utilizing two single-wing forehands is 31-year-old Korean Cheong-Eui Kim, who’s languishing at a rank of 966. Russia’s Evgenia Kulikovskaya was ranked in the top 100 in the early 2000s while playing tennis with two forehands.
When asked of his future aspirations, the thoughtful youngster with a high IQ on and off the court, replied: “I don’t have any expectations of myself just as long as I give it my best,’’ he said. “I want to turn pro when I’m older. I just want to be different.”
So far this month, his best has been more than enough, and he certainly is different.