Grigor Dimitrov: “I had enough fuel in my body to go through the match. I was just physically really strong” - UBITENNIS
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Grigor Dimitrov: “I had enough fuel in my body to go through the match. I was just physically really strong”

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TENNIS WIMBLEDON 2014 – 27th of June. G. Dimitrov d. A. Dolgopolov 6-7, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1. An interview with Grigor Dimitrov

 

Q. It all seemed to change on that backhand that hit the baseline to take you to 5b#4.

GRIGOR DIMITROV: Yeah, the slice shot. Yeah, I mean, what can I say? First of all, I think it was a good fight throughout the whole match. Alex is a tricky opponent to play. The only thing, my game wasn’t at my best level today. The only thing I could do is just stay in the match and fight with every chance that I had during the match. I had to basically use it and try to break him down.

I think he came out of the match really intrigued, and I just had to just play a better tennis in the end.

 

Q. Were you surprised how quickly the final set went? I think he won seven points.

GRIGOR DIMITROV: You know, as soon as I had that break in the fifth set, you know, I knew I that could close it up fast. I saw his movement changed a little bit. His shots were becoming lighter and lighter. I just had to put my foot down and really close it up the best way possible.

I was happy I was able to do it that fast.

 

Q. Is this where all the hard work on and off the court really pays off?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: Yeah, I mean, obviously, as I said, it’s one of those days that the game wasn’t there. I had to count on something else. I had enough fuel in my body to go through the match. I was just physically really strong, you know. I knew that the deeper the match goes, the better odds I have of winning it.

That fifth set proved a lot to me today.

 

Q. It might be a little bit surprising to some people because obviously as a player you’re quite known for your elegance, the beauty of your shot-making. It’s nice to see the scrappy fighting elements.

GRIGOR DIMITROV: I mean, not every day you wake up and feel at your best. You have to do anything you can to win the match.

Today I was capable of doing pretty much everything that I had to do. I knew I didn’t play one of my best shots or I was not playing beautiful tennis. But, you know, it’s in the game. In the end it doesn’t matter if you’re going to win crappy or if you’re going to lose beautiful. I’d rather win that way.

That actually gives me another chance, another look for the next match what I can do better. That’s my goal, to be better.

 

Q. Last year you had a heartbreaking loss in five sets here. Now you’re stronger. Did it help you that you had that tough experience last year? Did you think about it today?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: I think you always think about moments like that, regardless if it’s that tournament or any other ones.

I was really positive coming into Wimby that year. This year has been a better preparation. Obviously I had a great week before that, winning Queen’s. Of course, that gives me extra hype, extra excitement.

Still, you don’t have to forget one of those moments that you fail. I think because of those moments, you know, I’ve prided myself on some of the matches that I played so far. Some of my mental strength comes from that. I was able to overcome that.

It’s a great feeling.

 

Q. I’m sure you knew part of what you were letting yourself in for when you brought Roger onboard. Has it been tougher work than you expected?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: No, I don’t look at it that way. I love working. I enjoy working with him. I think sometimes it’s not even enough.

That’s how it’s been. He’s the one that brings definitely those little details of my game and I think of my mentality as a player. It’s something nice to have between a coach and a player.

 

Q. Respectfully you’re a player with a number of nicknames. Some people call you Baby Fed. Some call you Mr. Sharapova now.

GRIGOR DIMITROV: I didn’t know that.

 

Q. Do you feel a bit like with this run now, you can make your own name?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: People will judge anyway. What can I say? I think I’ve grown through all the nicknames by now. I think it’s time for everyone to kind of come up with something better.

I think all those things are starting to fade away. I’m proving myself not only as a player but as a person outside of the court. So to me it’s much more valuable.

 

Q. How do you want to be regarded? Does that come back to the fighting spirit you showed today? Is that the way you would like people to see you?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: It would have been better if I won in three, straight sets, I’m not going to lie to you.

But when it comes down to matches like that, yeah. I think I want to create my own legend, my own trademarks. I’m the only player that is playing out there on the court, so everything is in your hands.

You have the choice, the opportunities, the varieties, to make something.

 

Q. You said you wanted to make changes at the US Open because you weren’t happy with your fitness. Do you still consider yourself a work in progress?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: Yeah, I think I’m just at the beginning. I still have a lot of things to work on. I think it’s a good way of thinking because if you think that you’ve reached the top, this is where you don’t improve.

For me the most important thing is to improve, to get better every day, every match I play in, and take one step at a time.

I never wanted to be one of those that takes numerous steps to the front and settle with that, then wait till the next big thing comes. It’s all or nothing.

 

Q. Millions of Bulgarians are following your matches with excitement. Do you ever think about the fans back home when you play?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: I always think about the fans at home. Luckily when I was back home after Miami, they were showing some of my matches, the excitement of the people. It makes me happy, makes me happy to see that. I’m happy that people in general are engaging with that sport in Bulgaria and it’s developing in a good way.

 

Q. Most of the top players name Raonic and you as the next generation. Do you feel proud or do you feel pressure for that?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: In a way it’s nice to hear it, but I think, so to speak, the youngest generation, we all look for what we are looking for. I don’t think we ever listen or hear.

I’m like that in particular. I don’t listen to those things. I just want to take my way and have my team around in the surroundings which is the most important thing and focus on what I have to do.

I think it’s important thing for me to just keep that way, not paying much attention to anything else around.

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Novak Djokovic ‘Hurt’ By Father’s Absence From Australian Open Final

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Novak Djokovic - Roland Garros 2022 (foto Roberto dell'Olivo)

Novak Djokovic said he mutually agreed with his father that he did not attend his latest Australian Open match but admits it was a bitter pill to swallow. 

 

Srdjan Djokovic had attended his son’s matches throughout the majority of the tournament but has recently been caught up in controversy. On Wednesday a video surfaced on social media of the 62-year-old posing for a photo with pro-Russian supporters with one of the fans waving a flag with the face of Vladimir Putin on it. Another fan was also wearing a t-shirt with the ‘Z’ symbol on it which is used to support the Russian army. 

The Russian and Belarussian flags were banned from the tournament this year following an incident in the first round. A Russian flag was shown during a match between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova. Prompting anger from Ukraine with its ambassador to Australia calling for a ‘neutral flag’ policy to be implemented. 

Srdjan has since issued a statement saying the incident was ‘unintentional’ and said his family ‘only wish for peace in the world.’ He subsequently also missed Djokovic’s semi-final match to avoid any possible ‘disruption’ before doing the same for Sunday’s final.

“I thought things would calm down in terms of media and everything, but it didn’t. We both agreed it would probably be better that he is not there,” Djokovic said after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas to win a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title
“That hurts me and him (Srdjan) a lot because these are very special, unique moments. Who knows if they repeat again? So it was not easy for him.”

Whilst he was not in the stands, Djokovic was reunited with his father shortly afterwards. Although the tennis star said Srdjan ‘was not feeling his best’ due to the situation. 

“It is what it is. I think in the end also what he told me is that it’s important that I feel good on the court, I win the match, and he’s here for me,” Djokovic continued. 
“If it’s going to be better for me as the outcome of the match so that he’s not in the box, then so be it. That was the whole conversation.’
“In a way, I’m also sad that he was not there, present, in the stands. But he was throughout the entire tournament, so it’s fine. In the end, we have a happy ending.”

Djokovic has now won five out of the past seven Grand Slam tournaments he has played in. At the Australian Open alone he has won 28 matches in a row.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas Play for the Men’s Championship

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Novak Djokovic this week in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

A year ago, Novak Djokovic experienced quite an embarrassing debacle.  After the unvaccinated Djokovic was initially granted an exemption and allowed to enter Australia, he was later detained, and eventually deported and prevented from competing at this tournament.  His refusal to get vaccinated continues to prevent Novak from competing in North American tournaments, missing Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open last year. 

 

But at the events Djokovic has been allowed to participate in over the past seven months, he has been nearly unstoppable.  Since the beginning of Wimbledon last June, he is now 37-2, with five titles.  Novak comes into this championship match on a 16-match winning streak, with seven of those victories against top 10 opposition.  With a win on Sunday, Djokovic not only ties Rafael Nadal in their ongoing race for history with 22 Major titles, but he also regains the World No.1 ranking, despite all the tennis he’s missed.

However, standing in his way is a hungry and confident Stefanos Tsitsipas.  This is the Greek’s second Major final, and the second time he’s encountered Djokovic in this round of a Slam.  Two years ago in the championship match of Roland Garros, Tsitsipas secured the first two sets, before losing to Novak in five.  If Stefanos can win one more set on Sunday, he’ll not only win his first Major title, he’ll also become the World No.1 for the first time.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who have won six Majors as a team, face Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who are vying for their first Major as a team. 


Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic’s excellence in the latter rounds of the Australian Open is rivaled only by Nadal’s excellence at Roland Garros.  Novak is now 19-0 in the semifinals and finals of this tournament, which is quite staggering.  He’s also won his last 27 matches at this event, and his last 40 in Australia in general, a streak that dates back over five years.  While Novak suffered a hamstring injury a week before this fortnight, he has still advanced to this final rather easily, dropping only one set through six matches.

Tsitsipas has now reached the semifinals or better in four of the last five years at the Australian Open, but this is his first time reaching the final.  He enjoys plenty of Greek support at this event, and appears to have some extra swagger in his step during this fortnight.  Stefanos has dropped three sets to this stage, and has been superb at saving break points.  Through six matches, he has saved 44 of 53 break points faced.

Both men feel fully at home on Rod Laver Arena, and have described it as their favorite court.  But this is their first meeting on RLA.  They’ve met plenty of times on other courts though, in a rivalry that’s been thoroughly dominated by Djokovic.  The Serbian leads 10-2, and has claimed their last nine matches.  That includes four matches that took place in 2022, in which Novak won eight of their nine sets.  They played three times within a six-week period this past fall on indoor hard courts, with their closest and best matchup taking place in the semifinals of Bercy, where Djokovic prevailed in a final-set tiebreak.

Djokovic is undeniably a huge favorite to win his 10th Australian Open.  But that common knowledge takes a lot of pressure off Tsitsipas, who was so close to defeating Novak the last time they met in a Slam final.  Djokovic has been rather unbothered by all competition during this tournament, even with an injured hamstring.  Can Stefanos pull off one of the bigger surprises in recent tennis history?  I expect him to challenge Novak on Sunday, but Tsitsipas’ backhand remains a liability. And with Djokovic determined to avenge what he sees as mistreatment a year ago in Australia, a Novak loss would be truly surprising.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open: Facing Tsitsipas For World No. 1 Spot May Be Different for Novak Djokovic

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Image via https://twitter.com/atptour/

It probably was a good thing that Novak Djokovic wasn’t facing a top opponent in the Australian Open semifinals. Certainly not one the caliber of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

 

Of course, Tommy Paul did his best. He just isn’t a top ten caliber player.

The American could rally with Djokovic, but when it came time to win the point or game, he  usually was nowhere to be found on the Rod Laver court.

DJOKOVIC WILL NEED TO BE BETTER

The fact that Tsitsipas is in contention for the No. 1 ranking in men’s tennis is enough to ensure that Paul isn’t quite in the league with the Greek superstar.

Djokovic will need to be better than he was against Paul when he steps onto the court to face Tsitsipas on Sunday night in the Australian Open singles final.

There was Djokovic blundering his way through a one-sided 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 win over Paul. The scoreline should have been closer to 3-1-2. But Novak appeared to have all kinds of physical ailments — legs, knees, bandaged hamstring. Or just plain conditioning and breathing hard. You name it.

NIGHT-TIME DUTY ONCE AGAIN

It was just night time in Melbourne. You wonder what might have happened if Novak had been assigned some daytime duty like everyone else in the tournament. Say, like Tsitsipas had been assigned for his closer than the scores reflex in the Greek’s 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 win over Karen Khachanov in Friday’s other semifinal.

Tsitsipas is a real threat to claim the world’s top ranking on Sunday night with a victory over the legend from Serbia. Of course, in the 2021 French Open final, Tsitipsas won the first two sets against Djokovic.

It’s possible. Tsitsipas could come through this time.

A SHADOW OF THE OLD NOVAK

Novak was only a shadow of the old Djokovic Friday night. And that was against a player who may never earn a berth in another Grand Slam semifinal.

Of course, Djokovic wasn’t quite as out of it as Rafa Nadal was in the second-round blitzing by Mackenzie McDonald. But Nadal was nursing a hip injury. He may be a different player in Paris in four months.

Djokovic still has all of the big shots and serves he has displayed for much of the last two decades. He just didn’t seem to know where all of those weapons were headed in the semifinals.

IS NOVAK’S BAG OF TRICKS EMPTY?

Of course, if Novak pulls a solid performance out of his bag of tricks and denies Tsitsipas the world’s top ranking, Djokovic likely would stand in Nadal’s path in Paris to a record 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

The task won’t be easy. First, Novak has to take care of business on Sunday night. But with a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title up for grabs, Djokovic may actually look like himself. 

As Novak says, he wants to be known as the best player in the world.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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