The race is on! Who needs to “save their season”

For the ladies a trip to Singapore awaits at the end of the year and for the men a trip to London awaits as the season finale draws closer. Over the coming weeks players will continue to add their names to the qualified list but who is in a race to “save their season” ?

The top 8 qualify and so far the names in the respective hats are Halep, Kerber, Nadal and Djokovic.

Garbine Muguruza

The name that stands out the most on the women’s side for players who are fighting to be there is Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard just hasn’t found any run of form this year. A semi-final at Roland Garros and 3 R2’s exits in the majors leaves her with her lowest number of wins at the majors since 2014.

It has also been the same story at the Premier 5’s and Premier Mandatory events this year and no top 10 wins since February.

I remember Muguruza went to Monterrey after Indian Wells and Miami and I felt that was just for confidence. To see the relief on her face after winning the title showed she needed something big.

Muguruza is 16th in the race right now and is just under 1000 points off Kiki Bertens who currently occupies the final space in Singapore. The fight is really on for her to save her season.

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Grigor Dimitrov

The man who won the World Tour Finals last year is in a bit of trouble.

He is down at 17 in the race at the moment and around 1600 points off 8th place occupied by Dominic Thiem.

It is virtually impossible for Grigor to be there and it is a great shame what has happened to him this season.

Throughout the season I’ve watched him, his serve is taking a pelting and he doesn’t seem to trust his game right now. I feel a mix-up of the team is required.

Jelena Ostapenko

I watch Jelena play and think, where is this going?

Too often to she plays that go big or go home style, the issue is more often than not she goes home early.

I still think despite that Roland Garros win last year we are still far off seeing her best tennis. I remember earlier on in the year when she was down in a match her coach said about going big but if anything it cost her.

Consistency is an issue and even though she does reel off amazing groundstrokes from time to time is she benefiting from this style? Qualification for Singapore will have to take something special.

Kei Nishikori

Some may think I’m being harsh putting Kei here but I feel like he needs to push on now.

He missed the beginning of the year with injury and ended up playing in challengers to get match fit. He looked better at New York but now needs a run of form. Win/loss of 28/14 for the year and no titles shows it has been tough.

He is just outside of the top 8 around 600 points off the mark at the moment and on these indoor hard courts coming up he needs to find form.

His record against top 20 ranked players is 7 wins and 9 losses and in the other 5 of his defeats he has lost to Wawrinka, Shapovalov and Kachanov so not really big surprises. He needs big wins if he is going to give it a final push.

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US Open R1 Round Up – Halep out ❌ Dimitrov confidence crisis 😞 Andy’s comeback πŸ’ͺ🏻 Garbine & Sloane impress πŸ‘ŒπŸ» Edmund’s ill 🀧 Stan wins 🦁 Usual winners βœ… & Youngsters impress πŸ‘πŸ»

R1 is done. We have seen big upsets, comebacks, withdrawals and much more over the last 48 hours, so what are the stories?

Halep out!

This is the main story, Simona Halep has been dumped out of Flushing Meadows by Kaia Kanepi who was too strong from the baseline and Halep could not shift the momentum. She was a break down in set two and clawed it back but couldn’t gain any rhythm.

The only good news Halep can take from this is that she will not lose her number one ranking.

Andy recovers!

Andy Murray had a bit of a fight on his hands against James Duckworth from Australia. The Australian just went for it and was strong off the baseline and this was something that he sustained for a while and even took the first set but so is the tenacious never giving up attitude of Murray from a set down he secured his first Grand Slam win in over a year.

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Garbine & Sloane impress!

The two ladies who really impressed me on Day 1 were Garbine Muguruza and Sloane Stephens. I was really impressed with the performance of both ladies who are in the same half.

Garbine was super impressive against Zhang dropping just three games in her 6-3 6-0 win and usually for me it takes a few performances until I feel convinced she can challenge. Sloane Stephens was also super impressive. You could sense the nerves throughout the match and then witnessing the relief on her face at the end. It was the perfect start to her title defence.

Edmund out!

Slight concern for Kyle Edmund who didn’t cope well with the heat and seemed to be unwell as he fell in round one something he will be super disappointed with following a very good season.

Usual business

It was a round of usual business as well for Roger, Rafa, Serena, Del Potro, Wozniacki and Novak but the Serb did drop a set on route to securing his place into round two.

Confidence crisis?

I while ago I hinted at it and now something looks like it needs to change and maybe it is time. Dimitrov looked out of confidence, he was hitting with hope and it was bad to see.

Youngsters impress!

It was a good time out for De Minaur, Chung and Shapovalov who all impressed especially the Australian who won 6-0 6-1 6-2 against Taro Daniel to secure his place in the next round.

Dissecting the draw πŸ—½

The US Open draw is out. The battle for the final major of the year begins on Monday, as ever the draw has thrown up some fantastic clashes and some interesting potential meetings…

R1 treats!

David Ferrer v Rafael Nadal

Grigor Dimitrov v Stan Wawrinka

Venus Williams v Svetlana Kuznetsova

Caroline Garcia v Johanna Konta

Caroline Wozniacki v Sam Stosur

The draw

The big stand out is Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the same quarter, if either will win it will likely be an early big clash between these two.

Del Potro, Murray, Raonic, Stan and Grigor in same quarter.

Last years finalist Anderson and Nadal in same quarter

Halep, Serena, Venus, Pliskova, Muguruza in same quarter!

Defending champion Sloane Stephens in same quarter as Svitolina and Azarenka.

Sharapova and Kerber in third quarter and In the fourth, Wozniacki and KvitovΓ‘

Stay tuned for previews and talking points ahead of Monday’s big kick off!

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β€˜Hope dies last’ Grigor knows what is needed!

Toronto should go down as a success for Grigor Dimitrov. Usually you go further than the quarter finals but for Grigor wins against Verdasco and Tiafoe we’re enough to show me he knows what is needed.

Following his win against Tiafoe he spoke to Sky Sports and he said two things, the first was he knows what he needs to improve on but is happy with performance as first tournament since Wimbledon but also a quote;

‘Hope dies last’

Grigor isn’t giving up. He is obviously disappointed and we see that in his reactions on court to things that aren’t going well!

Grigor is a player who won’t just stop. I imagine that he and his team would have sat down multiple times this year and discussed what can be done to improve his game. Two big things stand out for me, one of which I have written about before and that was his serve and the second serve in particular. Players return to the backhand of of Grigor as in the third shot of the rally it isn’t going to be a backhand to be scared of but it buys the returner time.

Dimitrov may be ranked No.4 but Rotterdam showed us his second serve needs big improvement

For me the other thing I have picked up on is how Grigor is returning serve.

His intensity has dropped and statistically by 2%. He’s winning 2% less of return shots and break points which doesn’t sound like much but for example if you say 532 break points liked he did last year and took 38% of them which was 202 out of 532. If it was 36% percent which is where he is at now it is almost 20 points less, imagine the matches you could win with those?

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Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 3-6 7-6 Frances Tiafoe – Bulgarian survives once again but the tests will get tougher!

For the second match running the Bulgarian has survived.

As tight as his match was against Verdasco less than 48 hours ago this time against the young American Frances Tiafoe he was heavily tested once again and past the test but as tournaments progress the tests will ask bigger questions!

Early on he looked locked in and ready and both players went toe to tow and could only be divided by a tie-breaker which he completely dominated.

We saw the side of Dimitrov we don’t usually see too much of and that was that anger after a time violation and missing the backhand and the amount of racket frame hits he got was unbelievable and from 2-4 down in the final set tie-break to win 7-4 to win the match.

Speaking to Sky Sports after he said;

“There’s quite a lot of things I can be better at”

One thing he said during the interview was;

“Hope dies last”

Dimitrov is in a tough position, he doesn’t look confident but that feeling around him winning has been too much and with time and his work ethic he can get back to where he needs to be and importantly get that second serve up as well but is something I will look into.

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Time to kick on? Grigor Dimitrov shows his desire to dig deep with a big win in Toronto!

There is no hiding from the fact that 2018 has been a tough year for Grigor Dimitrov. A player I have followed closely throughout his career I have been vocal on issues with his game whether it is his ground strokes or second serve however one thing I’d never doubt is his desire to be as good as he can or his ability to dig deep.

We are now at that stage of the year where for me Dimitrov is most dangerous. The hard court season coming into US Open is usually a little slow to begin with and then we head to Asia to Shanghai, Beijing etc… for big tournaments there.

I feel like his troubles on hard at the beginning of the season were a result of his success last year and the pressure he added. Clay isn’t ideal for his game but grass is and it was a confidence knock for him losing early in Queens to Novak and first round to Stan at Wimbledon!

In the headline I used the phrase ‘big win’ and people will look at that and think ‘oh, who did he beat? A big player?’ A big win doesn’t have to be a big player it can be a win against anyone who grinds but makes you work for it and Grigor showed that desire.

People will look at Grigor’s year and say won London in November then slumped, worst grass court season since 2010 for him personally but that’s just noise. Everyone slumps after a big win.

Now this is his time and I watched the first set of this one last night but I was super tired (stupid time difference) and I could feel the nerves early on being broken in his first game but he turned it around remained stubborn on the baseline and used his shots well against Verdasco.

An epic 35 shot rally to end the match epitomised Grigor’s tenacious character and the desire he has shown throughout his career.

Now this is the time to kick on. The target for me would be a good run going into New York but also I think we could say he would save his season with a deep run at Flushing Meadows or even getting to London. He is currently 1300 points off the pace so it will be incredibly tough.

Next up? Either Frances Tiafoe or Milos Raonic

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Does Grigor Dimitrov need a new voice in his corner?

Time to time players do extend their coaching teams. We have seen Top players in the past like Novak, Andy, Roger, Rafa and Raonic just to name a few bring in an extra voice whether it was Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Carlos MoyΓ  and John McEnroe who have all had stints with these respective players.

They don’t come in and make wholesale changes to their games at all, it has never happened like that but they bring ideas to the table and some will work and some will not.

We saw Andy improve his forehand under Lendl, Djokovic backhand under Becker, Federer improved his service game time under Edberg with variety and Rafa added his good friend Moya who has made a big impact on his serve.

Dimitrov has the game to be top 3, this loss should be a wake up call after a tough 6 months for the Bulgarian who’s serve I kept a close eye on today and it fell short again. Here is a link I wrote about his serve position change recently.

I was a bit lost again today, the serve percentage wasn’t there and neither was Stan’s but he won big points.

Even early on I saw flaws in his serve it was a bit central and I felt like there was no conviction and I have said before that Grigor was so good last year at serving and controlling momentum but he opened himself up for the down the line and we saw too much of the backhand slice into the backhand corner of Stan which is silly as he can flick the backhand down the line or hit the inside out forehand.

I think it’s a simple fix for Grigor. I do think he needs a new voice and new ideas in his camp, I don’t think it would be smart to completely change his coaching team but a voice who watches the game should help!