Grigor Dimitrov copes with windy conditions to reach Delray Beach semi-finals, faces surprise opponent in Rajeev Ram (Highlights included) - UBITENNIS
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Grigor Dimitrov copes with windy conditions to reach Delray Beach semi-finals, faces surprise opponent in Rajeev Ram (Highlights included)

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Grigor Dimitrov rebounded strongly from a minor wobble in the second set to win in straight sets against Adrian Mannarino (Image via Zimbio.com)

Grigor Dimitrov was in the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 2014, but that represented his career highlight to date. The Bulgarian has since struggled, and has not won a title since the year of his excellent Wimbledon run. He managed to ensure that he remains on track to change things though, as he beat Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 7-5 to reach the semi-finals in a blustery Delray Beach. His opponent will be veteran American Rajeev Ram, who defeated German Benjamin Becker 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

 

Both men held strongly through most of the first set, with Dimitrov imperious on first serve, winning all eleven points on that statistic. Mannarino was also playing well in their first career meeting, consistently staying with Dimitrov despite serving from behind. The problem with serving from behind though, is that you are under pressure first as the set nears conclusion, and Dimitrov pounced at five-four, earning three break points, and taking the third. In the blink of an eye Dimitrov had the first set and would again serve first in the second.

Dimitrov did start dropping a few points on first serve in the second, but not nearly enough to give Mannarino a proper look at breaking. To his credit, the Frenchman dusted off the disappointment of the first set, returning to holding serve fairly comfortably through the second, and again stayed with Dimitrov, to four-all. Neither man had faced a break point in the second.

Dimitrov faced a wobble at four-all, double-faulting to give Mannarino a glimmer of a chance at love-thirty, and Mannarino would eventually break to fifteen to serve for the second set. Dimitrov mounted a furious charge, breaking back at the same point he had broken in the first, at five-four though this time it was Mannarino serving ahead, and the break of serve merely meant level terms and not the end of the match.

Dimitrov continued to struggle, double-faulting for the second successive game, and his fourth of the set and match. Going down love-thirty again, Dimitrov this time limited it to a minor wobble, winning the next four points to then put Mannarino under pressure to take the match to a tiebreak. Mannarino could not accomplish the task, going down love-forty after struggling to put first serves in play, and Dimitrov would complete the break and win the match having won the last three games in a row.

Dimitrov on the weather pre-match: “It was so swirly out there that I only practised for 20 minutes. You just have to stay focused and get the job done.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lRcZVLwe_A

Dimitrov’s opponent will be a surprise in Rajeev Ram. Ram achieved his career-high ranking of no.78 in 2009, seven years ago, but looks in great shape to surpass that at the veteran age of thirty-one. Ram is a surprise semi-finalist given that his only previous hard-court semi-final came four years ago at the LA 250,where he lost to Sam Querrey. His ranking is largely based on challenger success and his excellent record at the Hall of Fame Championships in Rhode Island, a grass-court tournament played shortly after Wimbledon, where he is the current defending champion. Yet Ram managed to defeat in-form German veteran Benjamin Becker in a come from behind victory.

In a match featuring a number of service breaks, Ram managed to spread his four breaks across the two sets that he won, whilst Becker could only two in the first and his third early in the final set, when he and Ram traded breaks before the American pulled away.

 

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Samsonova Battles Past Bencic To Win Maiden Title In Berlin, Gets Wimbledon Wild Card

The Russian qualifier has stunned the tournament with a run that also seen her defeat Madison Keys and Victoria Azarenka.

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image via https://twitter.com/bett1open

Liudmila Samsonova is the 2021 Bett1 Open champion after pulling off another upset by beating number five seed Belinda Bencic 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 in front of a capacity crowd on Steffi Graff Stadion under hot and humid conditions.

 

The 22-year-old underdog caps off what has been a fairytale run in Germany for the qualifier. Prior to the tournament Samsonova had never beaten a top 20 player in her career or reached a Tour final. Against Bencic she hit 28 winners to 15 unforced errors and won 66% of her service points.

” I was so nervous today even before the match and during the first set so after the first set I took a toilet break and told myself to play a more aggressive game and it worked,” Samsonova said following her triumph.

It was world No.12 Bencic who got off to a fast start by holding serve comfortably and than the following game setting up the first break chance with a return forehand winner before the Russian would double fault twice in a row to give the early break. At 3-0 the Swiss found herself again at double breakpoint and managed to seal the it en route to taking the first set in just 28 minutes.

However, the second set was the total opposite with underdog Samsonova holding serve and breaking the very next game with a powerful forehand winner. Like Bencic in the first set, she turned her lead into a double break and served out the second set.

The Russian carried the momentum into the third and deciding set earning a chance to break in the first game and the world No.12 would double fault to give the break. At 4-2 the world No.106 had a chance to go up a double break but Bencic managed to save it and hold serve before going on the offensive. The Swiss had two chances of her own to go back on serve but the Russian saved all three breakpoints she faced.

At 5-3 the Samsonova had two chances to seal the match and the title on her opponents serve. Bencic saved the first one but the world number 106 would seal the win on the second.

In her post match press conference Samsonova explained how once she levelled the match was able to close it out.

” I was trying to keep my game going and try to be aggressive on my first shot and my serve and on the return and that is what I was focusing on”.

The young Russian now has her sights sets on Wimbledon as she awarded a main draw wild card after the match.

“They just told me that I’m going to have the wildcard for the main draw, so I’m so happy,” she said.

Samsonova is the 10th first-time WTA champion this season.

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Victoria Azarenka, Aryna Sabalenka To Team Up For Olympic Bid

The two players say their main focus is on playing singles but a ‘great opportunity’ has presented itself.

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image via https://twitter.com/bett1open

The two highest ranked WTA players from Belarus are being considered as strong contenders to win an Olympic medal later this year after they recently confirmed plans to join forces.

 

Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka are set to play in the women’s doubles tournament despite only playing together five times before on the WTA Tour. The duo has illustrated their potential at the Bett1 Open in Berlin, where they clinched the title on Sunday. In the final the pair upset top seeds Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs 4-6, 7-5, 10-7, to claim their first ever trophy together.

We both brought a different level, mindset than a few years ago. It was important to play together to feel each other’s game, see what we can try, apply what works, what we can work on. Our priority is singles but it’s a great opportunity at the Olympics to team up,” WTA Insider quoted Azarenka as saying following the final on Sunday.

Whilst they are both best known for their singles game, they have also had previous success in the doubles. Sabalenka won the 2019 US Open and 2021 Australian Open alongside Elise Mertens, as well as three Premier titles.

“We’ll play at the Olympics. To win a title, it gives us a lot of confidence and we feel each other better and players will know that we are playing good with each other and it’s more confidence for us and more pressure for other players,” the world No.4 commented.

Azarenka has already enjoyed success at the Olympics in her career. In 2012 she defeated Russia’s Maria Kirilenko in straight sets to win a bronze medal. During the same year she won gold in the mixed doubles alongside Max Mirnyi. Making her the only Belarusian tennis player in history to have won multiple Olympic medals.

This year’s Tokyo Olympic tennis tournament will be held at the Ariake Tennis Park and will get underway on July 24th.

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Matteo Berrettini reaches the final on his debut at the Queen’s

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Top seed Matteo Berrettini beat Alex De Minaur 6-4 6-4 after 84 minutes to reach the final in his debut at the Queen’s Club in London. 

 

Berrettini has not dropped a set yet at this tournament and beat British players Andy Murray and Daniel Evans earlier this week. 

Berrettini won 89% of his first service points and hit 8 aces. The Italian top ten player broke serve in the third game with a backhand down the line to take a 2-1 lead and did not face any break points in his next service games to win the first set 6-4. 

Berrettini earned three break points in the fifth game of the second set, but De Minaur held serve from 0-40 to take a 3-2 lead. Berrettini saved a break point to draw level to 3-3 before breaking serve to take a 5-4 lead in the ninth game, when De Minaur hit his slice into the net. Berrettini served out the win on his second match point to become the first Italian player to reach the final at the Queens. 

“Making the final was the goal of the week, and now I have one more step. It is a great achievement, especially for the history of this tournament. I am really happy because to beat Alex today, I had to play my best tennis. The mentality is that I always think I can win my service games. I know that I have a big weapon with my serve and first shot. If I sleep too well, it means something is off is off ahead of the final. I have to be nervous and tight a little bit, otherwise the adrenaline does not kick in and it is tougher to play”, said Berrettini. 

Berrettini set up a final against Cameron Norrie, who beat Denis Shapovalov 7-5 6-3 in 94 minutes. Norrie won 76% of his first service points and came back from one set down to become the first British player to reach the final at the Queen’s. 

Shapovalov earned an early break to take a 2-0 lead. Norrie broke back to draw level to 3-3. The British player earned his second break with a backhand passing shot in the 12th game to claim the first set 7-5. 

Norrie did not convert a break point at 3-2, after Shapovalov had treatment on an injury. The British player broke serve in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead and served out the second set in the second game to secure his spot in the final. Norrie has reached his third final this year after fiinishing runner-up to Albert Ramos Vinolas at the Estoril Open and to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Lyon. 

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