LONDON: Some defeats have a silver lining and for Grigor Dimitrov at the French Open it was that the grass swing was soon approaching.
Earlier this month the world No.6 bowed out of the third round at Roland Garros in straight sets. Losing to Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco. It is the eighth year in a row that the Bulgarian has failed to reach the fourth round of the tournament. The only consolation was his overall performance on the clay this year.
“This clay court season hadn’t got the way I wanted it to. At the same time I felt that I have improved on a couple of things.” Dimitrov told reporters at Queen’s on Sunday.
“I tried to be as positive as I could after finishing the French Open.” He added.
Seeking to return back to winning ways, the 27-year-old is targeting a second title at the Fever-Tree Championships in London. The venue is one that brings happy memories for Dimitrov. This year will be his tenth appearance at The Queen’s Club, where he won his first and so far only title on the grass back in 2014.
“I felt I had a great transition from surfaces (clay to grass), which is very nice. It also feels very good for the body.” He explained. “I feel that I can slide a little bit and the service is improving a lot. All these improvements mean a lot to me.”
Happily naming himself as a title contended at the ATP 500 event, Dimitrov is aware of the obstacles that could stand in his way. All of the top eight players are ranked in the world’s top 20. Furthermore, former grand slam champions Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka are unseeded in the draw. Should all go to plan, Dimitrov could face Djokovic in the second round as the Serbian aims to return back to his best.
“Queen’s have been a tremendous success over the years for me, so of course I’m going to expect a lot from myself.” Said Dimitrov, who has won 15 out of 23 matches played at the tournament.
“Every round matters a lot. It is just simple as that. I think obviously it’s going to be a tough battle either way.
“Obviously some of the players that are unseeded has had a great success (at the tournament) over the years, but at the same time it’s time to play. Time to step up the game.”
Ironically the potentially tough start to the tournament may be a blessing in disguise. Reflecting on the contenders for this year’s title, Dimitrov believes a triumph in London could play a pivotal role in taking his career to the next level.
“A lot of things in life are about timing. Maybe this is the time that in order for me to get to that next step I need to go through those kind of players to succeed.”
A special relationship
Almost four years have passed since his memorable run to the Wimbledon semi-finals. Since then Dimitrov has been ranked as high as third in the world and won the 2017 ATP World Tour Finals. Becoming the first Bulgarian in history to do so. Nevertheless, his love for the green surface has remained unchanged.
“I guess I have a special relationship with the grass. It’s always been a surface of mine that I always wanted to do well on and I know how limited our time (on the tour) is out there.” He said.
“Grass is very unpredictable and you always gotta be ready. It’s as simple as that. You gotta stay in the games, be more persistent when the other guy is serving. It’s up to you to seize that moment.”
Dimitrov will be hoping to seize the moment on Tuesday when he starts his campaign at Queen’s. His first opponent will be world No.28 Damir Dzumhur.
“It’s entirely up to me to make the right decisions on the court. Follow my instincts because sometimes that is all you need to do on the grass.” He concluded.
Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?
Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?
In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.
In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.
Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.
“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.
These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.
“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.
Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.
This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.
Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career
Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.
Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.
Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.
Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.
“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.
Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.
“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.
David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati
David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.
Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.
The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.
Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open 2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.
Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.
“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”
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