Grigor Dimitrov needed just one hour and nine minutes to see off Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 6-0 in the second match on Stadium 2 to reach the third round in Indian Wells. The Bulgarian squandered an early break advantage and got pegged back to 3-3, but then raced away with the match, winning nine of the next 10 games to see off the Russian.
In the following match on the same court Juan Martin del Potro reached the third round for the first time since his run to the final in 2013, battling past Federico Delbonis 7-6(5), 6-3 in an entertaining all-Argentine clash. Delbonis recovered from a break down and had a set point, pushing his compatriot all the way in the first set. However, a strong tiebreak from the 31st seed proved to be telling, with del Potro needing just the one break in the second to secure victory.
Dimitrov defeats Youzhny 6-4, 6-0
Dimitrov, seeded 12 at this event, has made a blistering start to 2017, picking up two titles in Brisbane and Sofia, while also reaching a second Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open (l. Nadal). Meanwhile world number 82 Youzhny came into this match with a 5-5 ATP record so far for the season, with a quarter-final run in Chennai being a highlight. The Russian defeated fellow countryman Medvedev 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round but could not find a way past his opponent on this occasion.
Dimitrov produced some flawless tennis in the early exchanges of the match, breaking the Russian immediately following a double fault. The 12th seed looked to be cruising, up 40-15 on serve in the third game, but failed to clinch the hold, going wide with an inside out forehand down the line to relinquish his lead.
Matters nearly got worse for the Bulgarian in the seventh game after a couple of unforced errors left him down 0-30 on serve. Dimitrov raised his level, taking four points in a row, closing with a forehand winner to move back in front at 4-3.
Serving to stay in the opening set, Youzhny faltered. The 34-year-old made a few untimely mistakes, finishing with a forehand into the net in what was an error strewn set from both men, the Russian making 18 unforced errors and Dimitrov making 14 as he sealed it 6-4.
After suffering huge disappointment at the end of the first set things looked to be going from bad to worse for Youzhny as he found himself facing two break points in a lengthy second game. Dimitrov missed his return of serve on the first before his forehand broke down on the second to give his opponent a lifeline. After squandering a third break point the 34-year-old had a couple of chances to escape with the hold but appeared to be struggling in the heat as he prepared to face another break point. The world number 82 produced one of the points of the match, closing with a lob on the backhand side to keep his hopes alive, yet more errors eventually proved costly for the Russian as he dropped serve in a game which lasted over 10 minutes.
Failure to hold on in that game proved to be the straw that broke the camels back for Youzhny as he dropped serve in the fourth game and once again when serving to stay in the match to hand victory to Dimitrov 6-4, 6-0.
The Bulgarian next faces 17th seed Jack Sock, who defeated qualifier Henri Laaksonen 6-3, 0-6, 6-4.
del Potro defeats Delbonis 7-6(5), 6-3
In the first meeting between del Potro and Delbonis it was a slow start from both players, but the 31st seed secured an immediate break of serve. The former US Open champion looked in complete control as he played what will go down as one of the shots of the tournament, lobbing his countryman with a hotdog shot to move to a 0-30 advantage in the fifth game. After Delbonis recovered to hold serve it proved to be a turning point.
Delbonis capitalised on some unforced errors from the 31st seed in the following game and secured the break back on his second opportunity to level at 3 games all. The world number 49 had to stave off three break points in the seventh game but hung tough, playing some big time tennis to move in front for the first time in the match. It looked as though this shift in momentum in Delbonis’ favour might bring him the first set, as he brought up a chance to take it in the tenth game. del Potro responded, reeling off three points in a row to keep his hopes alive.
Both players held their subsequent service games to take them into a first set tiebreak. A double fault from Delbonis handed his countryman a first mini break, which the 31st seed used to his full advantage, moving 6-3 in front. Delbonis hit back to save two set points but went wide with a forehand down the line on the third to seal a tough first set for del Potro 7-6(5) after one hour and 14 minutes.
The second set proved to be far more straightforward for the 31st seed as he secured the only break of the set in the fourth game. Delbonis battled hard as he had done throughout the match, saving two break points in that game before squandering a game point of his own which subsequently led to him relinquishing his serve.
Throughout most of the second set del Potro was solid as a rock on serve. With the exception of trailing 0-30 in the fifth game, the Argentine only dropped a further two points on serve. The former finalist here won 14 out of the 15 points when his first serve found the mark and del Potro closed out the match with a hold to love to seal a 7-6(5), 6-3 victory in one hour and 51 minutes.
Next up for the Argentine, a third round clash with defending champion Novak Djokovic following his straight sets win over Kyle Edmund 6-4, 7-6(5).
REPORT: Grigor Dimitrov Appoints New Coach
The former ATP Finals champion appears to have found a new mentor.
Former top 10 player Grigor Dimitrov has found a replacement following the departure of Radek Stepanek, according to one Bulgarian news source.
TennisKafe.com has reported that the world No.20 is now working alongside Christian Groh. A German-born coach who has worked with a number of top players on the men’s tour. Including Tommy Haas and Taylor Fritz. It is his work with Haas that Groh is best known for. During their 24 months together, he guided him from outside the top 200 to 11th in the ATP rankings.
The development comes a month after the 28-year-old stated that he was in no hurry to find a new mentor on the tour. Back in May he ended his collaboration with Dani Vallverdu after almost three years working together. He made the decision shortly before he exited the world’s top 50 for the first time since 2012.
“I’m not in a panic right now to find a coach. I always think that when I don’t have someone beside me, it’s hard to train. However, in the past months, I have done things myself that I have not done.” Dimitrov told reporters in November.
“You need to have freedom, to find yourself, to become closer to yourself.” He added.
Despite Stepanek stepping away, Dimitrov is still in contact with eight-time grand slam champion Agassi. Agassi is not a coach to the Bulgarian, but has agreed to a sort of consultation role where the two talk with each other regularly.
Dimitrov has experienced a roller coaster run on the tour this season with a win-loss record of 22-21. At one stage he failed to win back-to-back matches at six consecutive tournaments over the summer. However, his form surged during the last quarter of 2019 where he reached the semi-finals at both the US Open and Paris Masters.
Neither Dimitrov or Groh has yet confirmed their new partnership on the tour. Groh has recently been working as a consultant for the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
Heading into the new season, the first test for the duo will be at the ATP Cup in Australia. As well as playing, Dimitrov is the captain of the Bulgarian team.
Groh’s coaching CV
- 2011: Michael Berrer
- 2012-2013: Tommy Haas
- 2014: Bradley Klahn and Taylor Fritz
- 2015: Tommy Haas and Taylor Fritz
- ATP/WTA Players and United States Tennis Federation Player Development since 2015
Since the publication of this article, Ubitennis has received some additional details on Dimitrov’s work with Groh. The editor of TennisKafe.com, Borislav Orlinov, confirmed it was Dimitrov’s manager (Georgi Stoimenov) who revelled the two will be working together. They are currently training in Monte Carlo, but will head to Australia before the New Year.
Rival Backs Dominic Thiem To Win Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award
Only two players have won the award since 2004.
For the past 15 years only two players have managed to get their hands on the prestigious Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, but one player thinks there could be a brand new winner this year.
Diego Schwartzman has lent his support behind world No.4 Dominic Thiem. The award recognizes those who have conducted the highest level of professionalism and integrity on the ATP Tour throughout the season. Established in 1977, Roger Federer has won the honour in 13 out of the past 15 years. The only other player to triumph during that period was Rafael Nadal, who won it in 2010 and 2018.
“I think Thiem can win it, he showed throughout the year a competitiveness and a respect with everyone that was spectacular,” Schwartzman told ole.com. “On top of that he is having great years of his career and this season was even better for the achievements he had.’
“He has a good chance of winning it.” He added.
Schwartzman, who reached the quarter-finals of the US Open earlier this year, has also been shortlisted for the award. Along with regular nominees Federer and Nadal. Only once has an Argentinian player won the title, which was José Luis Clerc back in 1981. At that time it was known as the ATP Sportsmanship award before getting renamed in 1996.
“I learned first (of getting nominated) through social networks rather than the official designation that the ATP sends you by mail.” The 27-year-old revealed.
“It is more spectacular than anything for the players I have next to me. It is a very important prize that recognizes a little what you do off the court, not only hitting the ball.”
Whilst he is dreaming of winning the honour himself, Schwartzman is just happy that he has been nominated.
“If I won this award, it would be spectacular. Now I am on that payroll that is very good and represents the values that I try to maintain on a day-to-day basis and that (my coaching teams over the years) have taught me. It is very nice to be recognized for that. “ He concluded.
The four nominees for the Stefan Edberg Award was shortlisted by the ATP. However, it will be the players who will decide the winner. The result will be revealed later this month.
Multiple winners of the Stefan Edberg/ATP Sportsmanship award
Roger Federer – 13
Stefan Edberg – 5
Pat Rafter – 4
Alex Corretja – 2
Todd Martin – 2
Paradorn Srichaphan – 2
Rafael Nadal – 2
Kei Nishikori In Doubt For The Australian Open
Asia’s highest ranked male tennis player is contemplating when he should return to the tour following surgery.
World No.13 Kei Nishikori is refusing to rule out the prospect of skipping the first grand slam event of 2020 as he continues his recovery from surgery.
Nishikori hasn’t played a match on the tour since his third round loss at the US Open back in September. A month later he underwent a procedure on his right elbow in a move that brought his season to an early end. Currently undergoing rehabilitation, it is unclear as to when the Japanese player believes he will return to the ATP Tour.
“The prospect of a return from surgery on right elbow in January. Maybe February. In the second half of next year I want to be able to play well.” Nikkan Sports quoted Nishikori as saying.
“I don’t want to overdo it,” he added.
The Australian Open will get underway on January 20th in Melbourne. Should he miss the grand slam, it will be the second time he has done so in the last three years. Nishikori also withdrew from the 2018 edition due to a wrist injury. In January he reached the quarter-finals and therefore has 360 points to defend next year.
During his time away from the court, the 29-year-old has been kept busy making changes to his team. Recently it was confirmed that he has started working alongside Max Mirnyi, who is a former world No.1 doubles player. Mirnyi, who has won 10 grand slam titles in men’s and mixed doubles, will be working full-time with Nishikori alongside existing coach Michael Chang.
“I’m getting closer to retirement. I want to be cured and come back to play good tennis in the second half of next year.” Nishikori stated.
Despite the injury setback, Nishikori has enjoyed success in 2019. Reaching the quarter-finals in three out of the four grand slam tournaments. The first time he has ever done that in his career. He also claimed his 12th ATP title at the Brisbane International. Overall, he won 29 out of 43 matches played.
Nishikori will turn 30 on December 29th.
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