Grigor Dimitrov 6-7 2-6 4-6 Fernando Verdasco – Passive performance sums up year to date for Bulgarian

6 months ago we watched Grigor Dimitrov lift the ATP World Tour Finals trophy in London and the conversation of Slam success began with his relentless tennis in 2017 however from relentless to passive the Bulgarian has struggled and with Wimbledon around the corner and being such a strong grass court player he needs some form.

Grigor came into Roland Garros with a win/loss of 16/10 and without a title to his name.

I heavily praised Grigor for his ruthlessness in matches especially against Thiem in London I was so impressed now it’s the complete opposite. The performance against Jared Donaldson was equally stunning at times and then awful.

I did a piece earlier on in the year about Grigor’s second serve. It took an absolute beating by Federer. Right now his second serve win % is down 4% which may not sound much but can be a difference between winning and losing a match. His ranking for second serve points won is 55 on the tour with just over 50% won a 3% decrease on last year however he is returning better so it’s his serve which lets him down.

Grigor’s second serve points won v Fernando? 12/30 = 40%.

I often talk about slicing and variety and its there to give time and variety but also if you use it ineffectively then it will give time to your opponent.

There was a point in set three where I thought to myself, this is a man who isn’t playing very well and lacking confidence.

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Fernando finds the backhand of Grigor and bizarrely even though it had no pace on it Grigor went for the slice down the line instead of that pure backhand strike, confidence? Playing it safe?

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Fernando then backed up to play that inside out forehand and once that movement begins there is only one winner and that is a flat forehand winner cross court. Look at Dimitrov, stood wondering where to go.

It’s interesting to see where he goes from here. I expect him to head to London and begin training for Queens and Wimbledon where he should be challenging but I don’t see it yet.

His coach Dani Vallverdu who is a former coach of Andy Murray tweeted #ThinkProgressNotPerfection which is difficult for the man who played perfect tennis last year.

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Roland Garros Day 5 & 6 – Svitolina & Dimitrov out! Super Spaniards, Zverev survives (again), Wozniacki quietly progresses.

I do apologise for no writes over the last 24 hours, unfortunately I did have an accident with my eye but thankfully am completely ok!

So back to the tennis! The last 48 hours have produced some stunning matches and upsets as the second week of the second slam edges closer.

Elina Svitolina out!

I fully expect Eli Svitolina to head back home to London now and prepare on the grass courts as she is set to join the field in Eastbourne in a few weeks time. The disappointment is massive for her, after what she did in Rome she never got out of the blocks.

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Credit as well to Buzarnescu who had a plan and stuck to it and maybe there is where Eli can look to improve is figuring out different ways especially of slowing down the play with a slice as the Romanian had fun hitting the ball with power and depth down the middle of the court and jumped on the opportunities that she was presented!

Super Spaniards

So far so good. Nadal has won Roland Garros 10 times, Garbine Muguruza has the won but both have looked so good this week especially Garbine who had questions over her performances coming into this tournament.

Rafa has been cruising and Garbine has been taking the initiative in matches as she moved well, played with confidence and used those ground strokes to great effect!

Wozniacki quietly goes about it!

Caroline Wozniacki is quietly going about her business at Roland Garros. It’s not often you don’t expect the world number two to be considered a favourite but her form on clay always has left us wanting more.

So far it has been so good for the Dane who has cruised through her matches and with seeds dropping out around her just watch this space!

Dimitrov disappoints.

Very surprising defeat for Dimitrov. I expected Verdasco to provide a challenge and his tennis was flawless but he was heavily helped by the a passive performance from the Bulgarian which is something I will be writing a piece about shortly.

Sascha survives (again!)

I suppose the question is how long can Sascha Zverev survive for? I don’t think it will be for much longer. It looks likely that he will play against Lucas Pouille in R4 who finishes his match on Saturday and if he gets through that then either Thiem or Dimitrov!

His tennis has looked tight all week, the sign of a player playing with pressure which you don’t want. I don’t think his slam break through is coming here.

Roland Garros Day 4 – Caro, Elina and Petra cruise! Djokovic fights, Halep fights back and Goffin impresses again!

Day by day the field gets smaller and Day 4 ended with matches still to be completed with Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Lucas Pouille and Cameron Norrie returning to court around 1pm local time.

Cruising Trio!

Petra Kvitova, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki were all in a rush today as they cruised to the next round. Caroline was the quickest on court taking 51 minutes to secure her 6-0 6-1 victory against Garcia-Lopez. Kvitova also dished out a bagel as she saw off Lara Arruabarrena 6-0 6-4. Svitolina only dropped 5 games the most out of the trio as she saw off Kuzmova 6-3 6-4.

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Survival (only just)

The day saw Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov and Alex Zverev having to go for five sets on route to victory something all three wouldn’t have wanted to happen so early in the draw. Read more about their days below;

Going five? All three survive!

Halep fights back!

Simona Halep will be relieved to get R1 out of the way. It is odd that some are preparing for R3 whilst some haven’t finished R1 but so is the bizarre scheduling at Roland Garros.

I said in my preview Alison Riske will provide a challenge and when she took the first set off Halep 6-2 you started to worry but I said we need to see that fight and we saw it in round one but bigger hurdles will follow!

Goffin impresses again!

David Goffin is looking good so far this tournament. Out of all the men in action today he put on the most convincing performance. I didn’t really have David down as a contender coming into Roland Garros as his form had been a bit wobbly after that eye injury but his performance will be sending out signals to the rest of the field.

Djokovic fights hard!

Novak Djokovic played well. He was flawless but please don’t expect that from him right now. He’s an athlete who is improving week on week after injury. Some are expecting him to pull up trees here but I think it’s just great to have him back. Read more on his performance below

Novak Djokovic 7-6 6-4 6-4 Jaume Munar – All smiles after a tough test from the young Spaniard

There were also wins…

There were also wins for; Osaka, Monfils, Carreno-Busta, Keys, Stephens and Agut!

Going five? All three survive!

Well the men’s draw at Roland Garros nearly took a big hit this afternoon as Alex Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishkori all went to five sets but walked away with the win.

Grigor Dimitrov was the final player to finish his marathon of the three against the American Jared Donaldson who made the headlines for all the wrong reasons in Monte-Carlo. The American gave it his all to his credit but as the final set progressed past 6-6 his body couldn’t carry him which is leg a big issue which Grigor pounced on as he secured himself the win taking the match 6-7 6-4 4-6 6-4 10-8 to progress to the third round and keep his hopes alive!

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The pressure is on Alex Zverev to do well at a Grand Slam and so far it is so good. The German No.1 found himself down two sets to one as he trailed Dusan Lajovic however it seemed to ignite the second seed tipped by most to be Rafa’s main contender and he went onto win the 12 of the last 15 games to secure the win.

Finally the final match was between Benoit Paire and Kei Nishikori. Benoit and Kei were exchanging backhands throughout the match with the Frenchman who had the crowd behind him going two sets to one up on Kei. Kei looked fatigued and a little fed up with just poor body language and it was a challenge getting over the line but he did it!

 

Foro Italico thoughts ahead of Roland Garros

The final big warm up before Roland Garros sees the top players from the world head to the Foro Italico in Rome to finish off their preparations and aim to reign supreme in one of the worlds most beautiful cities.

I have been a bit quiet on everything this week as I have been in Barcelona for the week hence why I am doing a round up of findings from the week but there will be a number of exciting pieces coming out ahead of what is set to be an exciting Roland Garros but Rome first!

Why Stan?

When I heard Wawrinka was in Rome I was surprised, he lost in straight sets to Steve Johnson and it would be unfair to even look at the performance but I thought he would go straight to Geneva to practice and defend his title there? It’s good to see Stan back and it will take a while to get rhythm which could take a few months especially with three surface changes over the next 7 weeks so finding comfort on the knee is priority.

Sharapova’s best form since returning

100%! The former world number one has found some of her best tennis in Rome. The slow court has allowed her time on the ball something she hasn’t been getting over the last few weeks on clay.

Courts at Roland Garros can be similar but it does depend on conditions and watering which we have seen before. I think it’s good for Sharapova in this form but honestly I don’t see her contending for the title. The FFT denied Sharapova a wildcard last year so I don’t think they will be rushing to put her on Chatrier or Longlen.

Dom heading to Paris? Nope…

After what has been a good clay court season for Dominic Thiem the Austrian suffered an early exit in Rome so you’d have thought he would head to Paris to begin preparing but is instead going to play in Lyon at a 250 event and I don’t know why.

He isn’t short of match practice just a bad defeat and his performances in Monte Carlo and Madrid so soon after injury were very good so I hope going to Lyon doesn’t burn him out.

Worried for Woz?

Caro’s form has been consistent in the way that in all of her clay court tournaments she has won two matches and lost the third but when she has lost it is a thrashing.

Caro surprisingly has never found consistency on clay despite her game being well suited. Roland Garros is statistically her worst major with a win percentage of 64% but was her best performance last year making the quarter finals.

Caro does have points to defend and as second seed she should definitely be in the second week but has struggled against big hitters these last few weeks like Kasatkina and Bertens.

Kei good but good enough?

Kei Nishikori has also played one of his best tournaments of the year. Finalist in Monte-Carlo and quarter finalist in Rome he has come into form however that form dramatically dropped against Djokovic which is a concern!

Can he do it over 5 sets? I don’t think right now he is up to it physically. It is good to see him playing some stunning tennis but after set one it became a fatigued performance and he was a passenger which is a concern over three sets let alone best of 5 tournament.

Novak in form!

We haven’t been able to say it much this season but Novak has shown great form over this week. Frustration was a big part of his performance against Nadal and it was great to see that frustration!

You might think well frustration shows something is up but it’s good to see Novak with that spark in his personality and game on the court again. His performance against Rafa was better.

Physically he was moving better and hitting the ball harder with control. More challenges will follow but I will be greatly surprised if he doesn’t make the second week of Paris.

Raonic records his biggest win of the year as Dimitrov misses the benchmark again!

Injuries have been a big issue for Milos Raonic throughout his career. The Canadian has suffered over the last 12 months or so with injury after injury halting any progress he could make leading to the question โ€œwhat if?โ€ Milos has eight career titles to his name (7 250โ€™s and 1 500) and is 0-4 on Grand Slam/Masters Finals combined and it could be looked back on in years to come as opportunity missed.

In this early round in Madrid the draw put him up against Grigor Dimitrov and this was a meeting where we would find out a lot about both.

Iโ€™ve watched a lot of Milos Raonic over the years and I donโ€™t think he will win a major and right now I donโ€™t see him picking up a Masters title. To start with fitness is one issue and to be successful at the top you need to be at the peak of fitness. His game is a little predictable we have seen him introduce more net play and more trust on his backhand but over the years I wouldnโ€™t say I have seen significant improvement like we have with Marin Cilic for example.

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I was pleasantly surprised by Milosโ€™ performance. He has improved as the season has gone on and you can this. The serve is standing up more and he has opened up that inside-out forehand and began to push Grigor Dimitrov back and he played a well measured match but I think those ideas will run out against the very best.

Grigor Dimitrov on the other hand has left me confused again. The second set he played a flawless set of tennis as he glided around the back of the court but then it completely changed.

This has been a bit of a theme for the Bulgarian this year. He has struggled to gain momentum and it does feel compared to the tennis he was playing at the O2 in London last year the foot has come off the pedal.

This isnโ€™t the first time this year I have mentioned the tennis Grigor played at the O2 when he won the world tour finals but that is the benchmark and right now he isnโ€™t there.

Top seeds fall across Europe!

Well, it has been quite the 24 hours on the ATP and WTA tour. Many players are beginning their clay court season this week whether it is in Barcelona, Istanbul or Stuttgart the top players have packed their bags early but who has gone home?

Dominic Thiem
Grigor Dimitrov
Simona Halep
Elina Svitolina
Garbine Muguruza
Angelique Kerber
Caroline Wozniacki
Svetlana Kuznetsova

The fall outs have been big, some bigger than others!

There will be concerns over Garbine Muguruza who in Stuttgart had to retire and it is the third time this year the defending Wimbledon champion has pulled out of a tournament with injury. Garbine is now expected to move to Madrid now with tennis there beginning in just over a week.

‘Surprises’ as well in Barcelona with Thiem and Dimitrov dropping out early. I wouldn’t say surprises as they are both finding their form again but it would have been nice to see both in the final four.

Caroline Wozniacki was in action today in Istanbul but also found herself packing her bags likewise with number two seed Kuznetsova.

Likewise in Stuttgart where a out of sorts Halep dropped out today and Elina Svitolina both who you would have had as contenders.

It hasn’t been an ideal 24 hours for anyone and preparations have taken a big hit for all with many expected to head off to Madrid asap!

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