Grigor Dimitrov’s first day at the French Open consisted of frustration and relief as he narrowly avoided crashing out of his opening match in the tournament.
One year ago, he was seeded fourth at Roland Garros and didn’t drop a set during his first round match. However, since then he has suffered a series of disappointing results on the tour that has resulted in his ranking plummeting. At present, he is 47th in the world and recently played his first qualifying match on the ATP Tour in Geneva since 2012.
Dimitrov’s roller coaster journey continued on Sunday in his opening match at the French major. Taking on veteran player Janko Tipsarevic, who has undergone seven surgeries on his lower body over the years, the Bulgarian battled to a 6-3, 6-0, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-4, win. Dimitrov was leading the match by two sets and a break, before coming unravelled on the court. Nevertheless, he dug deep to prevail with the help of 70 winners. Placing the blame of his blip down to the mental side of his game.
“A win is a win. Obviously I was a couple of sets up, up a break. I didn’t know exactly how he was feeling, and clearly I think that disrupted me a little bit.” He said.
“But it’s all in the game, to be honest. In the end, it’s up to me that — I mean, in the way that I lost the focus, so I take that for me.”
“Overall, it was great to win that match. I mean, this is what I have waited for, to win matches like that. In the past months, all those matches have gone the other way around for me. And I just felt that this time, really, at the important moment I really stepped up.” He added.
Besides his mental demons, the 28-year-old continues to be hindered by his own body. A shoulder problem forced him out of events in Indian Wells, Acapulco and Rotterdam. Dimitrov’s victory over Tipsarevic is only his 10th of 2019 and the fifth since the Australian Open.
“My shoulder is still not 100%, which is obviously something that it’s on my mind when I’m competing and that takes a little bit of the focus away and the purpose when I get out there (on court).” He revealed.
“But I need to give everything I have when I’m out there on the court even if it’s not going well. It’s simple as that. I just can’t sit around and wait for everything to be 100% in order for me to compete.”
The new team
Earlier this month, Dimitrov announced that he has separated from his coach Dani Vallverdu after almost three years working together. The split comes after the former top 10 player failed to capitalize on winning the 2017 ATP Finals. Since that triumph, Dimitrov has only managed to reach one other final on the tour at the Rotterdam Open in February 2018.
Now guiding him is former players Radek Stepanek and Andre Agassi. The duo who also briefly mentored Novak Djokovic during the first half of 2018. Stepanek was recruited just for the French Open, but it is possible that his contract may be extended. Meanwhile, Agassi has been a consultant for the Bulgarian since 2018 on a more casual basis.
“I have known Radek for a long time. I always liked the way he was thinking on and off the court.” Dimitrov explained.
“I was just starting when he was around. So I kind of find him very intriguing in a sense with the game that he had. In a way, he’s achieved so much and has done so well.”
“I think this is what I need right now, especially that I haven’t played many matches. I’ve had problems with the shoulder. So I need that positive energy to surround myself with the right people.”
As for Agassi, who Dimitrov says he has a ‘special relationship’ with, talks are ongoing about what his future involvement may look like.
“In the past year we’ve started to speak a little bit more and potentially try to set up the exact weeks or how many weeks we can do, but all that is in the air now a little bit.”
Dimitrov will play Marin Cilic in the second round at the French Open. He is yet to defeat a top 20 player this year.
Loss Meaningless To Dominic Thiem In Hunt For ‘Most Difficult’ Title At ATP Finals
The world No.5 explains why the key to his latest match was keeping it short, but not necessarily winning.
LONDON: Dominic Thiem isn’t going to be losing any sleep over his latest loss at the ATP Finals with the ultimate prize still in his sight.
Thiem, who qualified for the semi-finals of the tournament of Tuesday, was far from his best as he slumped to a straight-sets loss to Matteo Berrettini. Who has become the first Italian in history to win a match at the event. It is hard to read too much into Thiem’s latest performance with him openly admitting that his focus was on his upcoming semi-final clash. Highlighting one of the drawbacks of having a round-robin tournament with some matches providing irrelevant to the overall standings.
“Of course I was still trying to win that match, but also, at the same time, I knew in my head that I have to take care (of my body) for Saturday because obviously, it’s the way more important match,” Thiem explained during his press conference.
“I’m really trying to get the body going 100% for Saturday, and it wouldn’t be that smart if I would have another three-hour match today.”
The comments do not mean that Berrettini just had a walkover win and he was made to work for the victory. Which levels the head-to-head between the two players to 2-2. However, both would admit that with not much on the line there was a lack of intensity.
“I think that today was maybe even the weakest compared to those three (matches).” Thiem states.
“We had a great one in Shanghai. We had a great one in Vienna and also here. Of course, it affected a little bit that both of us, we couldn’t do anything about the standings in the group anymore.”
The 26-year-old has certainly illustrated his worthy candidacy to lift the title on Sunday in London following his previous triumphs. Earlier this week he scored back-to-back wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Should he end up playing Nadal over the weekend and win, he would become the first player to defeat all members of the Big Three in the same tournament since David Nalbandian at the 2007 Madrid Masters.
There is still a way to go for Thiem to clinch the biggest title of his career to date. The Austrian believes he if he does manage to win the tournament, any other title is not off-limits for him.
“I think that maybe this tournament is the most difficult to win because you have to beat five top 10 guys in a row. Okay, you can afford to lose one match maybe, but still, I’m 100% sure that if you win this title you can win, as well, any other title.” He explains.
“I haven’t done it yet, but I think that if you win this title, it gives you a lot of confidence for Australia (Open) because it’s the closest, but for the full next year as well.”
Few can dispute the fighting spirit of the Austrian on the court in London. However, after a long season, he admits that he isn’t fully healthy. A situation his rivals also find themselves in. Although some are struggling more than others at present.
“I’m not 100%, but it didn’t affect me in these three matches,” Thiem admits. “That’s why I also really need to be careful because I really hope I have two more matches so I can give all that I have and my own 100% in the remaining two matches.”
Thiem could play one of three players in the semi-finals depending on the outcome of Friday’s matches. Awaiting him will be either Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev or Daniil Medvedev. The only way he can play Nadal is if they both progress to the final.
Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo secure their semifinal spot in the ATP Finals in London
Former ATP Finals runners-up Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo battled past Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 10-7 after 1 hour and 44 minutes to finish the Group Jonas Bjorkman with a 2-1 round robin record.
Kubot and Melo came back from an early break down and fended off four set points before Ram and Salisbury converted their fifth chance to win the opening set 6-4.
Kubot and Melo fended off a break point in the seventh game with a great serve, before they converted their first break point in the 10th game.
Kubot and Melo won five consecutive points in the Match Tie-Break to open up a 6-2 lead. The Polish and Brazilian players converted their fourth match point to secure their spot in the semifinal.
Matteo Berrettini Scores Historic Win Before Exit From ATP Finals
The 23-year-old ends his breakthrough season on the ATP Tour with another milestone in his career.
LONDON: Matteo Berrettini has become the first Italian man in history to win a match at the ATP Finals after defeating Dominic Thiem on Thursday afternoon.
The world No.8 managed to dismantle the game of his rival, who was far from his best at times, with the help of his blistering serve to seal the 7-6(3), 6-3, victory. Ending Thiem’s streak of four consecutive wins over top 10 players, including Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer earlier this week. In total Berrettini hit 30 winners to 21 unforced errors and converted both of his break point opportunities.
“I’ve always had great fights against him. I was able to stay mentally focused, especially in the first set when I lost my serve because I didn’t play a great game.” Berrettini said afterward.
“I’m really happy with my performance because I am not feeling great physically.” He added.
The downside to the round-robin format of the event is that some matches end up being irrelevant with this being one of them. Regardless of the outcome, Thiem has already qualified for the semi-finals and Berrettini is on his way out. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old Italian was playing for pride at The O2 Arena.
A close start to the match saw neither playing managing to gain any momentum during the first eight games. Then inconsistencies in Thiem’s game started to haunt him. Berrettini’s ability to hit the ball deep into the court forced his rival to make a series of errors as he broke for a 5-4 lead. However, it was his turn to stumble behind his serve as Thiem broke back to level with relative ease.
Despite neither player capitalizing on their advantages, the tiebreaker was a one-sided encounter. Three Thiem unforced errors, as well as a winning Berrettini slice, saw him go behind 0-4 in the blink of an eye. Creating enough of a margin for Berrettini to seal the first set with the help of a 134 mph ace.
Thiem clearly looked flat on the court compared to two days ago when he downed Djokovic, however, nothing should be taken away from Berrettini. Who kept focus and stuck to his game plan throughout the match. A backhand passing shot, followed by a crosscourt winner enabled him to break once again midway through the second set. Easing towards victory after just 76 minutes play, Berrettini closed the match out with a delicate drop shot.
“I’m really proud of myself, but also for my team, my family and my friends. It’s been an unbelievable season.” He reflected on his year.
“I didn’t expect at the beginning of the season to be here (in London). I hope to come back next year, but now I just want to say thanks to those guys (his team). Without them, it couldn’t be possible.”
“I’m happy to finish with a win.“
Despite the loss, Thiem will finish at the top of the Bjorg Born Group. He will play the runner-up of the other group in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Whilst Berrettini’s ATP season is over, he can’t rest yet. Next week he will be in Madrid playing for his country in the Davis Cup along with many other of his fellow players.
“There is one more event. I have to rest a little bit and then I think I deserve a holiday.” He declared.
Berrettini ends 2019 with 43 wins on the ATP Tour in what is a career best. He started the year ranked 54th in the world and didn’t make his top 10 debut until last month.
Italian men in the ATP Finals
-C. Barazzutti in 1978 – 0 wins and 3 loses
-A. Panatta in 1975 – 0 wins and 3 losses
-M. Barrettini in 2019 – 1 win and 2 losses
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