Australian Open Day 1 – Bencic stuns, Grigor and Rafa cruise but top American’s fall!

The Australian Open never fails to deliver and on day 1 we saw some surprises and of course upsets as the seasons major opener got under way at Melbourne Park

American Wipe-out!

The day began with 13 American’s taking court in Melbourne and the number 13 ended up being unlucky for with only 3 American’s progressing to round two. Incredibly the day saw Jack Sock, Coco Vandeweghe, John Isner, Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams amongst others lose with the only winners being Ryan Harrison, Nicole Gibbs and 22 year old qualifier Mackenzie McDonald!

Venus out! Bencic through!

Belinda Bencic’ comeback from injury has been exceptional. The Swiss star has battled hard on the tour winning a long streak of matches before joining up with Roger Federer in Perth where they won the Hopman Cup but has now fully announced her return with this big win against last years Runner up!

Welcome Rafa!

After a few months off the world number one looks very sharp and was very impressive in his 6-1 6-1 6-1 victory against Estrella Burgos. The biggest cheer of the evening in Australia was when Nadal’s serve was broken by Burgos but nothing was stopping this man in his quest for another title down under!

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Marathon wins for youngsters!

Kevin Anderson and David Ferrer came up against Kyle Edmund and Andrey Rublev respectively but their time in Australia has been short lived for this year as the Brit and the Russian managed to construct good solid wins against two tour regulars who know what it takes to go deep in majors!

Business as usual!

On a day of a few surprises there were wins for Wozniacki and Svitolina (who were both very impressive). Dimitrov was also in action winning 3,2 and 1 as well as wins for Ostapenko, Kyrgios and Cilic whilst tour veteran Victor Troicki had to come from two sets down but also a shoutout to Monica Puig who fought incredibly hard against home favourite Sam Stosur to come through in three sets.

Day 2 will see Sharapova, Djokovic, Federer and many more in action!

 

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Dimitrov shows great sportsmanship as he progresses in Brisbane

Grigor Dimitrov is still on course to defend his Brisbane International title. The Bulgarian has been solid since the season began following his heroics last season in London and on route to a three set win against Kyle Edmund showed some great sportsmanship.

Grigor bossed the first set and from that point it did look like being a formality for the world number three but Kyle battled well and saw off some break points at 4-4 in set two which propelled him to take the tie-break 7-3 in the second. The third set was a bit of battle early on with both holding serve but then at 4-4 a horror fall from the Brit caused panic around the stadium going down on his ankle with his opponent Grigor Dimitrov wasting no time at all in sprinting over the net to help Kyle.

After a minute or two Bulgarian helped Edmund to his feet and to the chair where he received treatment after hearing his ankle crack. Kyle did get back up and continue but couldn’t continue with the momentum he got mid-way through the second set and his quest for a top 10 win goes on but more importantly here’s hoping the ankle injury is nothing too serious with Melbourne on the horizon

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Flair, elegance, variety and personality! A deserving debut champion!

Grigor Dimitrov started the season in fantastic fashion. Finishing the year as the world number three it began in January ranked at 17 in the world and his triumph in Brisbane sent waves through  the tour.

This looked like a man ready to fight at the top, it did fizzle as the season went on but he turned it on to show he does belong in the big time and there will be plenty more big time moments for him.

To go a week undefeated in London is fantastic in such a competitive atmosphere against the best.

Unfortunately people will look at it and say he didn’t have to play Federer or Nadal but I’m  a big believer of you can only play who is in front of you and you could argue his form was better as they both lost to Goffin but Grigor beat him twice…

He brought elegance, variety, flair and a personality and if anything a show built up to be about Roger and Rafa was all about this man and he totally deserved it!

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Elegant Dimitrov cruises to 6-0 6-1 victory

Grigor Dimitrov treated us to some exceptionally elegant tennis this afternoon as he demolished David Goffin 6-0 6-1 to advance to the semi-finals in London on his debut at the tournament.

He plays some beautiful tennis and this year at glimpses we have seen how brilliant he can be and I think I speak as a collective when I say everyone is happy to see him playing so well.

In his press conference after his win against Thiem he said he’s been fighting his demons and it opens up what he has had to battle to get to where he is now and Annabel Croft on Sky Sports summed it up perfectly through his hard work, determination and graft he has gotten here and he deserves it with the younger players on the tour on around him he has stepped it up when he has to!

Semi-finals set for Dimitrov on the weekend with a match against Carreno-Busta in hand as well.

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ATP World Tour Finals – Grigor Dimitrov v Dominic Thiem

Roll back 10 months to January when these two faced off in Brisbane. The Bulgarian won on that occasion and here’s why I think he will again.

Dominic Thiem has played too much once again this year. The Austrian has taken part in 28 tournaments in 9 months before arriving in London and is in a poor run of form winning 2 of his last 7 matches and hasn’t found any momentum or consistency since the clay court season.

For Dimitrov it has been a consistently good year. He was exceptional in the first few months winning titles but it did fizzle out but it never took a big effect on his tennis and adapted very well.

If I were to describe Thiem’s tennis then it would be nice. He does play some lovely shots but it’s more of an aesthetically pleasing tennis on the eye than an effective tennis and we’ve seen that this year and in Brisbane.

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This shot above shouts one thing to me and that is casual. Down set point and Thiem is playing with a drop shot when a simple put away was on. Fast-forward five seconds and Dimitrov plays a backhand passing winner and you can see the dejection in Thiem’s body language below…

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His tennis is too nice and I think he can learn from Dimitrov who has battled very hard to get to London and lose that casual side of his game but still plays beautiful but effective tennis!

 

London calling!

In January you whisper about it, in June qualifiers begin and in October the race reaches it’s final sprint but now the marathon week is about to begin.

A season hit by injury for many top players saw some returning faces in Roger and Rafa and some new faces!

Rafael Nadal

We are unsure whether the world number one will participate. The knee injury has flared up and forced him out of Paris. No matter what does happen he will finish the year as number one. Inside hard courts have not been his strength over the years so I wouldn’t even have him down as the favourite.

Roger Federer

Missing Paris was a good decision, time to rest ahead of London and of course a stop in Glasgow for Andy Murray Live which ended up in him playing tennis in a kilt. He has to be the favourite. No one knows London like Roger.

Alex Zverev

Stepped it up ahead of the other younger players on the tour. Can show frustration at times but has his game settled. I haven’t seen too much of Alex on the indoor court but if it is another slow one in London he will rely on his variety to win matches. Getting out of the group will be key but will be tough.

Dominic Thiem

Second year running for Thiem who there are concerns about as he once again travelled week in week out playing 28 tournaments in 9 months. At some point the tennis will catch up and bother him long term, to cement his place as a contender cutting out unnecessary travelling and tournaments. The game is there but is the challenge?

Marin Cilic

Could be one to watch in London! Cilic has had some unusual results this year but he has played at a consistently good level and maybe doesn’t get the credit he deserves sometimes. With the serve, ground strokes and his improvement at the net will make him dangerous!

Grigor Dimitrov

Exceptional start to the year for Grigor. He was unplayable early on, it did fall apart a little but has been consistent throughout the season. He has grown up a lot on the court and his game is much better now! If he can settle then he can be dangerous on this O2 court.

David Goffin

One of my stories of the year. That freak injury at Roland Garros was tough for him physically and mentally but David is a fighter. If I compare the tennis he was playing during the clay court season with that of last year at the O2 when he had a brief cameo as an alternate and his game is much better and I think that cameo did him the world of good.

Jack Sock

Well, I’m not sure where to begin. With great respect Jack Sock an addition I would call a fish out of water. He has had good results this year but winning a Masters 1000 title has propelled him into the final position and qualifies and it is a great achievement personally for him but it does highlight the lack of quality outside the top players.

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Final destination is London but first a week in Shanghai!

The final destination is London. We are still a few weeks away from the curtain fall at the O2 Arena but 5 places remain and have to be filled so a week in Shanghai will decide a few on a very open field.

Three are in, those three are Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and first time qualifier Alex Zverev but who is next?

When not if…

It does look like being a matter of when not if for Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov who are just a few hundred points away but just behind is Marin Cilic who should make the O2 but was nowhere near convincing in Tokyo losing the final set up the semi-final v Mannarino 6-0! Dominic Thiem hasn’t been in great form either and could face the super talented Denis Shapovalov in round two.

Picking up points when it matters!

I couldn’t be more pleased for David Goffin. He has had a rough year and began to deliver on the clay and then had that freak injury at Roland Garros falling in the court cover which halted his season but those 465 points from Tokyo have put him in a great position to qualify for London and I so hope he does.

Now or never?

Opportunity knocked this year and in different tournaments Sam Querrey and Kevin Anderson took them. Now a chance and likely a final chance to push for a place in London. Both have come on leaps and bounds this year but for Kevin it’s been a tough ride after injury but he doesn’t give in and these two have broken that stereotype of big serves having little game, they bring game and it’s brought them rewards.

Outsiders…

Carreno Busta and RBA could make it. Berdych’ withdrawal from Shanghai has all but ended his chances of returning to London. There is still a possibility that Kyrgios could make the tour finals which would be brilliant and a deep run for Del Potro currently 25 on the race could mix it up which would be incredible!

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