Grigor Dimitrov: "To finish the year in the top three is a wonderful reward" - UBITENNIS
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Grigor Dimitrov: “To finish the year in the top three is a wonderful reward”

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Grigor Dimitrov enters today’s final unbeaten after taking a narrow win over Dominic Thiem before dropping just two games in each of his two remaining round-robin matches against David Goffin and Pablo Carreno Busta earlier this week. On Saturday the Bulgarian player came back from losing the first set to beat Jack Sock 4-6 6-3 6-0 in the semifinal after dropping just three games in the final three games.

 

“I think I started the match exactly the way I wanted. After that break at 3-0 in the first set, I think it was a little bit of a turning point. He stepped in the court, started being a little more aggressive. I let him play his game. I think that was the first set. The second was one-way street. It was a very good play, as simple as that. In the third I just had to find those little cracks in his game to break him. After that it was a good finish for me”, said Dimitrov.

The Bulgarian star lost his previous match against Sock in the 2017 Indian Wells after missing four match points. Dimitrov had to hold his nerve, as Sock saved four match points and even earned two break points in yesterday’s semifinal before the Bulgarian player sealed the win, when Sock netted a forehand.

“Sometimes not only you have to fight yourself mentally, but you need to fight like demons from previous matches or your opponent. There are just so many matches that you bring out. I was very happy the way I handled the pressure. Even though I was down a breakpoint or something, even if I had to play an extra game or games, I had to accept it. You learn from those moments. I certainly learned from that experience”.

Dimitrov will finish the year as the new world number 3 behind Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer after a great season highlighted by four titles in Brisbane, Sofia and Cincinnati.

“The goal was to finish the year in the top 10. Now I finished in the top 3. It’s a wonderful reward. This is what I have been working for. I think it’s not only good for me, but also for the whole team. I think that gives us a good platform to start in the off-season and have a good start to the new year”, said Dimitrov.

Dimitrov leads 4-1 in his previous head-to-head matches over the other finalist David Goffin, who beat Roger Federer in the other semifinal. Dimitrov beat Goffin dropping just two games iin his 6-0 6-2 n the round-robin match earlier this week. Last winter Dimitrov beat his Belgian rival in the Australian Open quarter final and in the Sofia final. Goffin took his only win over Dimitrov last February in the Rotterdam quarter finals. Goffin comes into this evening’s final after beating Rafa Nadal in the round-robin and Roger Federer in the semifinal in two three-set matches.

Both Djokovic and Goffin are making their first appearance at the ATP Finals, although Goffin played one match against Novak Djokovic as alternate to replace Gael Monfils.

Dimitrov is aware that this Sunday’s final will be a totally different match from his previous clash against the Belgian player.

“The first match is in the past. I wish I could press “Replay”. I am sure neither one of usi s going to think about that. He is a very intelligent player. He knows his way around the court very well. Any given day, any particular moment he makes it dangerous. He had a few good wins already and has been playing well through the end of the year. I think he has got a lot of confidence. None of us has nothing to lose. We are out in the first final. I think it’s going to be exciting.

Dimitrov is the eleventh player in the history of the ATP Finals to reach the final in his first appearance at this event and the first debutant to achieve this feat since David Ferrer in 2007. For the first time since the 2008 final between Novak Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko the title match will be played between two players who make their debut at the ATP Finals.

“It’s another match. Obviously David has done well this week beating Rafa and Roger. I think his confidence is going to be high there. I am not going to focus on his confidence or his game right now. I am just focusing on myself, the recovery that I am going to be up there. It’s not going to be the same after I played against him. I think it is a different stage for both of us. It’s wonderful day to play on. I think Sundays are always the greatest days to play.”

Goffin has become the sixth player to beat Federer and Nadal in the same event and the first player to beat the top two players at the ATP Finals since 2009, when Nikolay Davydenko beat world number 2 Nadal in the round-robin group and world number 1 Federer in the semifinal.

Goffin scored his first win against his idol Federer after losing his previous six head-to-head matches. The Belgian player grew up with a poster of Federer on his bedroom wall

“Both are really special. It was the first time against Rafa. Then the semifinal for the first time for me here in such a big event, big tournament, it was a perfect moment. It’s the best win of my career for sure”, said Goffin.

 

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Playing Clay Events After Wimbledon Was A Mistake, Says Diego Schwartzman

The former French Open semi-finalist is seeking to win his first title since March 2021 at the Tel Aviv Open this week.

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Diego Schwartzman (Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Diego Schwartzman will likely reevaluate his schedule for next year after admitting that part of his plans for this summer backfired. 

 

The world No.17 enters into the final quarter of the season with 31 wins against 22 losses on the Tour but is yet to win a title. Although he did reach back-to-back finals back in February in Argentina and Brazil. He has won two out of eight matches against top 10 opposition, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Cup and Felix Auger-Aliassime in Barcelona. 

Reflecting on his performance, Schwartzman admits that his decision to return to European clay after playing at Wimbledon was a mistake. He lost his second match in Gstaad to Pablo Carreno Busta and then his first in Hamburg to Emil Ruusuvori. 

“It’s difficult to play at the same level every tournament, I’ve made a bad decision playing clay tournaments after Wimbledon, I didn’t have time to rest,” he said during his pre-tournament press conference at the Tel Aviv Open. “I paid the price and had some bad losses. But I started to feel much better in USA hard court season, lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas who reached the final in Cincinnati and to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. Now I am feeling very good, I really love playing indoor tournaments.”

The 30-year-old has headed straight to Tel Aviv from the Laver Cup where Roger Federer played the last match of his career. Despite Schwartzman’s Team World winning the title for the first time, his only contribution to the tie saw him lose 6-1, 6-2, to Tsitsipas. 

Retirement was very much the topic of conversation during the Laver Cup with others such as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic questioned by reporters about their plans in the sport. As for Schwartzman, he stayed coy about how much longer he would continue playing after saying in the past he might stop at the age of 33. 

“33 — is a good age to retire, isn’t it? South Americans are in different situations compared to European players. We travel too much, and sometimes we are not coming back home for 2-3 months, while Europeans can fly home every week. It’s tough,” he said. 
“As for Roger — he’s a special player, I think he is just the greatest in our sport.”

The Argentine is seeded third this week in Israel and will begin his campaign against Arthur Rinderknech who defeated qualifier Marius Copil in his opening match. 

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup

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The lineup for Day 3 (twitter.com/lavercup)

Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar.  Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup.  Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first. 

 

Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time.  And each match on Sunday is worth three points.


Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm

Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles.  So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday.  Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday.  Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist.  If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)

Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles.  While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever.  Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.

Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay.  It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1).  And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday.  Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary

Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games.  He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts.  However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.


Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary

Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday.  If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday

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The lineup for Day 2 (twitter.com/lavercup)

In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2.  And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit.  With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup? 

 

Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day.  Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm.  And each match on Saturday is worth two points.


Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm

These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions.  Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event.  Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati.  Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup.  Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.


Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session

Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play.  Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive.  Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17.  Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon.  They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets.  Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm

Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday?  He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock.  Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios.  The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.

Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5.  Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York.  Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets.  Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day.  But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.


Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session

Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here.  This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals.  Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2.  De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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