Dominic Thiem and Lucas Pouille Move Past Tricky Openers - UBITENNIS
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Dominic Thiem and Lucas Pouille Move Past Tricky Openers

6th seed Dominic Thiem opened his Roland Garros campaign on Suzanne Lenglen Court with a 6-4 6-0 6-2 win over Bernard Tomic. Simultaneously on Philippe-Chartier Court, 16th seed Lucas Pouille battled past his fellow Frenchman Julien Benneteau 7-6(6) 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Jakub Bobro

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Dominic Thiem has been red hot through the clay season, reaching finals in Barcelona and Madrid. This makes the 23 year-old Austrian one of the top contenders for the title in Paris. Thiem’s opening round against Tomic would be very closely followed a couple of years ago, but with Tomic’s performance this year, it was pretty much a forlorn conclusion. Tomic seemed to be really trying in the first set, finding odd angles and pushing Thiem to the edge of his abilities. There is a nice contrast in styles between the two, with Thiem’s power+spin game facing off.  Despite that, Thiem managed to get a break and overcame Tomic 6-4 in the first set. After that, Tomic basically gave up and perhaps “tanked” the rest of the match. Thiem was winning points easily, where Tomic could have pushed him further, but didn’t. Thiem won the match 6-4 6-0 6-2 in just 80 minutes, and will face Simone Bolelli or Nicolas Mahut in the second round.

 

“The confidence is there also. I played a very good clay-court season but everyone starts from zero here.” Said Thiem

In a far more competitive and entertaining match, 16th seed Lucas Pouille faced Julien Benneteau. Pouille arrived in Paris with question marks about his form. Early in the clay season, Pouille made the semifinals in Monte Carlo and won Budapest, but then followed two first round losses in Madrid and Rome, to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Sam Querrey respectively. Pouille was the favorite in both matches, so there were questions about his fitness and form. Julien Benneteau started a comeback at the beginning of 2016 from outside the Top 500 after missing the majority of 2015. In the past two seasons, the 35 year-old veteran clawed his way through Challengers and is now back to Top 100, currently at No. 98. In the lead-up, Benneteau opted to play French challengers instead if qualifying for the European Masters events. The Frenchman lost in quarterfinals of both Aix En Provence and Bordeaux, beating players like Lukas Rosol, Gastao Elias, or Jurgen Melzer. Benneteau retired from the Bordeaux quarterfinal two weeks ago, but definitely seemed ready for this match.

The first set was a great battle which cumulated into a tiebreak won 8-6 by Pouille. Benneteau took advantage of serving first in the second set, putting Pouille under pressure and eventually breaking him. Benneteau took the second set 6-3. The veteran took an early break over Pouille in the third, and despite a strong serve he kept it and won the third set as well, 6-4. When Benneteau got an early break in the 4th set, it seemed to be over for Pouile. Then came a small and expected dip in performace by the 35 year-old after several grueling hours on court in the 31 Celsius heat. Pouille came back into the match, won the 4th set 6-3 and didn’t let go. Pouille dictated the 5th set and was completely in control. At 3-5 0-30 in the final set on Benneteau, one of the spectators in the lower seats close to the court seemed to faint, and the match was shortly suspended. After a couple of minutes play resumed, and Benneteau looked reborn. He won 4 points in a row and went to 4-5. Pouille helped himself by strong, consistent first serves, and won the match 7-6(6) 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 after 3 hours and 21 minutes.

Pouille was quite reliant on his first serve, winning 85% of points that came after it, as Benneteau successfully returned only 54% of serves. The match between these two was very physical, full of grinding rallies. It was mostly Pouille’s serve that made the difference. Benneteau’s big weapon was his net game, weakened by the surface but still very effective. The 2014 Roland Garros Men’s Doubles champion finished 37% of points after his serve at the net, and it is a tactic that worked almost perfectly.

The rolandgarros.com Live Blog posted: For a fleeting moment I had a sinking feeling that Benneteau was going to retire there, but fear not. With tears in his eyes – and speaking in French – he tells the crowd… “I don’t have a choice, I can’t serve 210 kph, 215 kph. The only thing I know how to do is fight, and be physical. I enjoy the pleasure of playing in front of you. Frankly, what you made me experience today makes me want to come back. I’m not promising anything, I’ll do my best to be back here next year. Lucas really deserves the win. I want to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom and my wife”

Lucas Pouille commented: “We had a great time on the court, he’s a great player. He has worked hard to get to the top level. I believed right until the end. I was having trouble letting go but at one point things went my way and I managed to get ahead.  I hope to go as far as possible, I want to win a Grand Slam. I know it’s not easy but I will see where I can get to.”

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REPORT: Grigor Dimitrov Appoints New Coach

The former ATP Finals champion appears to have found a new mentor.

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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
    Source -ATP/Linkldn

UPDATE*

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.

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Rival Backs Dominic Thiem To Win Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award

Only two players have won the award since 2004.

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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

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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.

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Kei Nishikori (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

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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