Olympics Preview – Men’s Singles

While the Women’s previous Gold medalists since the introduction of tennis to the Olympics read like a who’s who of WTA in the last 25 years, the Men’s side has a few more surprise winners including Marc Rosset, Miroslav Mecir and more recently Nicolas Massu. The Chilean is the only male in the modern era of Olympic tennis to have two gold medals – one in singles and one in men’s doubles.

Draw

Quarter 1 (1) Roger Federer-Janko Tipsarevic (7)

I think that Roger Federer will be very pleased with his draw here. Although his first opponent Alejandro Falla famously almost knocked out the Wimbledon champion two years ago, there is no such danger here. Federer is showing new found confidence and with nemesis Rafael Nadal out yet again, will be confident of making the Gold Medal match at least. The round 2 possibilities for Federer are at two extremes – the Frenchman Julien Benneteau, who took the first two sets against him at Wimbledon and so would have won in this format. His other potential opponent is Mikhail Youzhny, the Russian has never beat Federer and was dispatched of with ease in the quarter finals this year. His potential third round opponent is tough to pick out – big serving Gilles Muller has the chance but would get woefully exposed by the Swiss if it came to it. Spaniard Fernando Verdasco is always capable of a big match (see Madrid 2012 vs Nadal) but is often weak mentally. If Verdasco manages to beat Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin then his record against the No.1 looks almost certain to go to Won 0 Lost 6.

John Isner will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing couple of months, where he most notably suffered early exits in both the French Open and Wimbledon. The American takes on Olivier Rochus, whom he has a 2-0 record over including victory in the final of North American grass tournament Newport last year in straight sets. Yen-hsun Lu would be his expected opponent in the second round. The Chinese Taipei player has fairly decent grass form over the years and is well known for his defeat of Andy Roddick in Wimbledon 2010 to reach the quarter finals and takes on Malek Jaziri in the first round. An intriguing tie will be that of Janko Tipsarevic vs David Nalbandian. Nalbandian has always been incredibly talented but never quite hit the heights expected of him after early promise. The pair have a 2-2 head to head but Janko Tipsarevic has got the better of the Argentinian twice this year, including at Wimbledon where the Serb won in straights. The winner of this match will take on Lukas Lacko or Philipp Petzschner in the second round.

My Quarter Final Prediction – Roger Federer defeats John Isner in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Janko Tipsarevic vs David Nalbandian

Did You Know…?

Mikhail Youzhny’s woeful record against Roger Federer is as follows – Won 0 Lost 14, picking up just 3 sets in the process.#

There is a 16 inch height difference between John Isner and his Round 1 opponent Olivier Rochus – 6ft9 to 5ft5.

Quarter 2 (4) David Ferrer-Juan Martin Del Potro (8)

Without Nadal, David Ferrer is bumped up to a top 4 seeding and as such this seems the one quarter that perhaps is more expected to produce a surprise Semi Finalist. The section contains a fair amount of incredibly talented players but without the consistency that has saw Ferrer make the top 5 in the rankings. Wimbledon 2012 quarter-finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber is one such player, but the fact that he is currently still in Kitzbuhel, Austria as a type cannot be a great preparation for this tournament – especially since he is playing a clay court tournament! Nikolay Davydenko will do well to defeat Radek Stepanek in the first round, the Russian has only made the second week at Wimbledon once and generally struggles on grass. Kei Nishikori-Bernard Tomic is probably the pick of the ties in this section, two highly rated players who have the game to trouble the top 10. Nishikori showed this last year in his run in that took him into the top 25 while 19 year old Tomic memorably made the quarter finals at SW19 last year.

Since his controversial comments regarding equal pay, Gilles Simon seems to be suffer a bit of a dip in form. The Frenchman exited in the second round of each of his last three tournaments including Queens and Wimbledon in matches he would be expected to win. Mikhail Kukushkin shouldn’t pose enough to threaten him but in the second round awaits a potential meeting with Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian has always been highly rated but like most young players failed to remain consistent enough. However recently, Dimitrov has kept his good form going for longer than usual – making the semi final in three of his last 4 tournaments and having to withdraw at Wimbledon due to injury. In this form, he is a darkhorse for a medal and in this section of the draw has a decent chance of making the medal match if all goes right for him. Andreas Seppi should progress easily against an incredibly out-of-form Donald Young and the same applies for Juan Martin Del Potro, who should have too much power for the Croatian Ivan Dodig.

My Quarter Final Prediction – David Ferrer defeats Grigor Dimitrov in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Bernard Tomic vs Kei Nishikori

Did You Know…?

Donald Young is on a 13 match losing streak, having only picked up two wins this year and being defeated seventeen times.

David Ferrer does not have a losing head to head against anyone of his potential opponents from the first round to the third.

Quarter 3 (6) Tomas Berdych-Andy Murray(3)

After suffering an embarrassing first round straight sets defeat at Wimbledon to Ernests Gulbis, Tomas Berdych will be keen to redeem himself. The one time finalist is still a very good grass court player and should have no trouble with Steve Darcis. Ryan Harrison showed plenty of promise in his defeat at Wimbledon to Novak Djokovic, and really should have took a set if it wasn’t for disapponting play on break points. His match with Santiago Giraldo should be interesting, the Colombian is on decent form but was dispatched of by Milos Raonic at Wimbledon – finding it hard to break the Canadian’s big serve. Since his change of nationality to Russian Alex Bogomolov has been struggling a lot, trying to deal with the expectations of what seems to now have been a year of overachievement than progress in 2011. Carlos Berlocq is a clay courter for the most part but may feel he has a good chance to progress to the second round here against Bogomolov. Nicolas Almagro is another who prefers the clay, but has had good grass court results in his rare forays on to the surface including victories over John Isner and Olivier Rochus. He holds a 2-0 head to head record over Viktor Troicki, who has the better grass results but may still not have enough to beat the Spaniard. A potential third round meeting should be tasty between Almagro and Berdych – they had a falling out when Almagro played a shot to pass Berdych at the net by hitting it right in his direct and the Czech felt it was being aimed at him.

Much like Philipp Kohlschreiber, Robin Haase is another currently in Kitzbuhel as he gears up for the final of the clay court tournament. Again, this won’t be ideal for the Dutchman though winning and added confidence can’t be a problem! He faces a tough first round tie against Richard Gasquet who will have his eyes set on a third round tie and revenge against Andy Murray in France last month. Gasquet controlled large parts of the match early only to buckle under the pressure of Murray’s injury doubts to lose in four sets. Murray probably has the hardest tie of the lot, drawing Stanislas Wawrinka in the first round. Murray’s most famous matches with the Swiss No.2 are his five set epic under the roof at Wimbledon where he prevailed, and his disappointing defeat in the US Open third round. If Murray makes it past the Swiss he should be fairly confident of making it to the rematch with the Frenchman, potential opponents are either a returning from injury Somdev Devvarman 0r Jarkko Niemenen – who also didn’t deal well with the pressure the possible Murray injury put him under. Marcos Baghdatis could give Gasquet or Haase problems if he makes the second round, the Cypriot loves the big occasion and has taken sets from Murray and Djokovic in recent Wimbledons.

My Quarter Final Prediction – Andy Murray defeats Nicolas Almagro in 2 sets

Must Watch Match – Andy Murray vs Stanislas Wawrinka

Did You Know…?

Tomas Berdych sealed his arrival to the tennis world in the 2004 Olympics defeating the World No.1 Roger Federer in three sets 4-6 7-5 7-5

Berdych does not have a losing head to head against the three seeds in his quarter

Quarter 4 (5) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga-Novak Djokovic (2)

Another of the in-form clay courters around at the moment is Thomaz Bellucci, who just took the title in Gstaad, he faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round. Bellucci only played once and lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal, but really should have took at least one set considering he held a double break in the first! Milos Raonic is the likely Round 2 opponent for the winner, the Canadian’s big serve should be enough to see off Japan’s Tatsuma Ito but against more experienced players his movement has been found a little wanting and needs to improve if he wants to go deep here. Expect tiebreaks in the Feliciano Lopez/Dmitry Tursunov match – both are traditional grass courters with big serves. The winner will face either David Goffin or Juan Monaco in what promises to be an intriguing tie. Monaco has always preferred the clay courts too, but will be high on confidence after breaking into the top 10 this month. Goffin showed a lot of promise at Wimbledon, defeating Bernard Tomic amongst others and is definitely one to watch.

Novak Djokovic opens his account with a tie against Italy’s Fabio Fognini. Some believe that the Serb’s momentum was killed slightly when Fognini withdrew from their quarter final match at the French Open and left Djokovic without a match for longer than he really wanted to. Djokovic should deal with him fairly easily. A potential second round with a revitalised Andy Roddick could make for a cracker in the three set format. Roddick has won two titles in the past 2 months (Eastbourne, Atlanta) and dominated David Ferrer for a set and a half before running out of steam. His opponent, Martin Klizan, comes off a decent run in Kitzbuhel but shouldn’t trouble Roddick too much here even if he plays poorly. Another former Wimbledon champion in Lleyton Hewitt has been handed a wildcard to the tournament and showed good form in Newport to make the final where he lost to John Isner. He takes on Sergei Stakhovsky who appears to be dealing with a number of injuries having retired twice over the grass court season. Another in-form player in Marin Cilic heads this part of the draw, the Croatian picked up the Umag title this month and looked impressive at Wimbledon including taking a 5 set 5 hour epic against the American Sam Querrey. He faces Jurgen Melzer who departed disappointingly to Lukas Lacko in Round 2 at Wimbledon.

Cilic/Melzer
Hewitt/Stakhovsky

My Quarter Final Prediction – Novak Djokovic defeats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Thomaz Bellucci

Did You Know…? 

The Second and Third Round’s in this quarter could see a match between two former world No.1’s – Novak Djokovic, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick all lie in this section.

In defeating Roger Federer last year at Wimbledon from two sets down, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga managed to end an 178-0 streak the Swiss held when leading 2-0 in a match.

Medal Predictions

Gold Roger Federer

Silver Andy Murray 

Bronze Novak Djokovic

Who do you think will go well in the Mens side of the draw? Who can cause a shock? Let me know in the comments below!

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July 9th-16th Previews

With Wimbledon over, the ATP and WTA tours have a hefty schedule this week with six tournaments over three surfaces and two continents. From the hard courts in Stanford to the clay courts of Umag and Palermo and even the continuation of the Grass season in Newport, there is plenty to look forward to this week.

(Click titles for draw)

ATP Tour

Newport – 250

Often seen as an afterthought in the short grass season, Newport was always likely to generate more interest this year with the chance to provide extra practice for the Olympic Games. Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and John Isner top a fairly strong field.

Favourite – With John Isner’s decidedly dicey form over the last few months, it is fair to say that Milos Raonic is the favourite to win the tournament. Raonic is topping many of the service stats on the tour this year and the surface will suit the young Canadian’s game.

Outsider – Showing signs of the form before his injury is Sam Querrey, the former finalist is unseeded here but can go far – he is in what many would perceive to be the favourable side of the draw away from John Isner, Milos Raonic and Gilles Muller.

One to Watch – Another returning from injury is US Open Mixed Doubles Champion Jack Sock, the 19 year-old has been handed a wildcard and will face Igor Kunitsyn in the first round.

Bastad – 250

With two other European clay tournaments to compete with, Bastad looks to have suffered the most competition wise with 8th seed Ungur being ranked only 81st, however David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro ensure there is some top level quality at the Swedish tournament. The currently inactive Robin Soderling is unable to defend his crown here.

Favourite – Arguably one of the best clay courters outside of his fellow countryman Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer looks certain to take this, he possesses a 10-0 head to head record over Nicolas Almagro.

Outsider – Grigor Dimitrov is another who has promised so much in his early years but as of yet has failed to deliver. A generous draw could see him making the Semi-Finals here where he would expect to face No.1 seed David Ferrer.

One to Watch – Tommy Robredo is back after a long spell out with injury, and full of confidence after taking Milan challenger a few weeks ago. However, he did withdraw from Braunschweig last week but hopefully it was just for precautionary measures than anything serious.

Stuttgart – 250

Stuttgart possesses a slightly stronger field led by the likes of Janko Tipsarevic and Juan Monaco as well as two former top 5 players in Tommy Haas and Nikolay Davydenko.

Favourite – Juan Monaco is another who looks at his best on clay with 2 titles to his name this year and despite not being No.1 seed is in my view the best player in the tournament with a great chance to make it three tournament victories for the year.

Outsider – Tommy Haas has found a new lease of life recently taking the Halle title and beating Roger Federer to go with it. The former World No.2 can definitely still be a threat in a three set format but has not won a clay title since 2004.

One to Watch – It will be interesting to see how Lukas Rosol fares the week after his giant-killing of Rafael Nadal. Many expect to see him revert to the form that sees him around No. 100 in the world but perhaps the victory will give him newly found confidence.

Umag – 250

Perhaps one of the most picturesque stops on the tour, the Croatian town is a favourite for tourists and fans alike. The field is led by Spaniards Fernando VerdascoMarcel Granollers and former World No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero while home hopes will be held by No.2 seed Marin Cilic

Favourite – No.1 seed Fernando Verdasco has gone two years without a title now but has a good chance to end that here. He was unfortunate enough to bump into David Ferrer in his last clay-court final but will not be so unlucky here. The Spaniard has obvious talent as shown by his recent victory over Rafael Nadal but mental issues often hold him back.

Outsider – Carlos Berlocq has shown great improvement over the past year, including reaching a personal high of No.37 in the rankings, only one spot above his current position. A regular winner on the Challenger Tour last year, Berlocq has made the step up and was unfortunate to suffer defeat in his only tour final to date in Vina del Mar.

One to Watch – Aljaz Bedene of Slovakia has been slowly making a name for himself on the Challenger Tour picking up three titles on clay this year but as of yet, has been unable to make the step up to the main tour.

WTA Tour

Stanford (Premier) 

Hosted at the University of Stanford’s tennis complex, the Bank of the West Classic is the oldest women-only event on the tour. The outdoor hard court tournament is also the first tournament in the US Open Series and the field is led by Serena Williams with Jelena Jankovic and Marion Bartoli amongst the big names.

Favourite – If her exploits at Wimbledon do not lead to a withdrawal, then it is incredibly difficult to see past Serena Williams defending her title. She is serving incredibly well and in this form will be hard to break, never mind defeat over a three set match.

Outsider – Marion Bartoli made the final here last year and looks the superior player in the bottom half of the draw. Any slip up from Serena and she will be sure to take advantage.

One to Watch – Nicole Gibbs is a decorated athlete at college level with numerous NCAA awards as well as being the 2012 Womens’ Champion while representing Stanford. She can earn a second round tie with Serena Williams if she defeats Noppawan Lertcheewakarn in the first round here.

 Palermo (International)

New no.2 Agnieszka Radwanska withdrew from Palermo after making the Wimbledon final making Sara Errani the top seed above compatriot Roberta Vinci. Defending champion Anabel Medina Garrigues also appears in the draw and is seeded No. 4.

Favourite – Sara Errani is an excellent clay court player and against all but the elite achieves very good results as shown by picking up tournaments in Barcelona, Budapest and Acapulco before her shock final appearance at Roland Garros.

Outsider – A five time winner of the tournament, it is hard to rule out Anabel Medina Garrigues, results indicate that she enjoys it a lot here and will likely go far again with an expected semi final between herself and Errani where I would think the winner would go on to become champion.

One to Watch – Yulia Putintseva is a promising Kazakh prospect, but will be disappointed at her recent result in nearby Biella where she was disposed of easily by Barbara Zahlavova-Strycova in straight sets. In less recent form, she did pick up an ITF 100k title in May which led her to her highest ranking of 122. If not for the tennis, she will be one to watch here for her famous tantrums!

So Far So Good

Photo Source: AFP / Getty Images

The first week of the ATP and WTA seasons have been concluded with many of this year’s featured players performing well.

Tournaments in Brisbane, Auckland, Chennai and Doha boasted a number of high-profile names while the Hopman Cup also panned out Down Under in Perth.

With many ranking points to save early on this year, Milos Raonic got off to the best possible start by winning the second ATP World Tour title of his career in Chennai. The 21-year-old Canadian beat Janko Tipsarevic 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4) in a final which didn’t feature any breaks.

Andy Murray took no time to claim his first title of the year and 22nd ATP World Tour crown of his career as the world number four went all the way at the Brisbane International. Not only was it the maiden event of 2012 for the Brit but also the first with new coach Ivan Lendl.

The eight-time Grand Slam winner has been installed to take Murray to the next level by claiming a major title himself. Lendl watched from the stands as his pupil dispatched of Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-1, 6-3 and, with improved movement on the court, he will be a serious title threat again at the Australian Open.

Murray had beaten Dolgopolov in last year’s Aussie Open quarter-final when the Ukrainian emerged as a main player on the tour. The 23-year-old’s chances of jumping another step and making the top 10 this year look to be on the right track.

At 19, home favourite Bernard Tomic is set for big things. After breaking the top 50 last year he’s backed that up with a semi-final berth already.

There was less joy for Kei Nishikori though, as he fell in the second round despite being seeded fifth. Cedrik-Marcel Stebe and Ryan Harrison both crashed out in the first round but young Aussie James Duckworth took full advantage of his wildcard by beating Nicolas Mahut in the opening round.

For the ladies at Brisbane there were less positives. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova went out in the second round along with Bojana Jovanovski but they had some saving grace as they were beaten by eventual champion Kaia Kanepi and multiple Grand Slam winner Serena Williams respectively.

Things didn’t improve in Auckland. Top seed Sabine Lisicki made the last eight but had to retire in her quarter-final match due to an abdominal injury. She’ll be hoping it doesn’t prove too serious and won’t keep her out of the first major of the year next week.

Elsewhere, Rebecca Marino lost her first match of 2012 in straight sets but teenage Czech Karolina Pliskova came through qualifying to make the main draw.

At the Hopman Cup, Petra Kvitova and Tomas Berdych took the main prize for the Czech Republic but Grigor Dimitrov put some impressive displays in for Bulgaria including a 6-2, 6-1 win over top 10 player Mardy Fish.

Post-Wimbledon Blues

In my early youth I believed June was the worst month of the year for sport; then I became a tennis fan and quickly realised July tops it by a long stretch.

Summer sports like golf and cricket don’t fill the void left by the football season’s conclusion and, besides the first week where the Wimbledon schedule spills over, tennis doesn’t either.

All the top players disappear for two to three weeks once Sue Barker’s wrapped up the closing ceremony on Centre Court and, due to my UK residency, so does the coverage of the sport.

Luckily I have a companion who bets and he’s always looking for a tennis punt. He’s been keeping me updated on which players have been making the most of this July tennis drought.

Here’s a summary:

The next big buzz after Wimbledon came from the Davis Cup. Bernard Tomic and Kei Nishikori were in action for Australia and Japan with both helping their respective countries to victory. Japan will next face India with the Aussies taking on Switzerland when the World Group Play-offs commence in September.

Ksenia Pervak continued her recent good form by reaching the semi-finals of the Gastein Ladies and losing out to third in the world Vera Zvonareva at the Baku Cup. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova lost in the quarter-finals of the latter event.

In a tournament where John Isner was the top seed, Grigor Dimitrov couldn’t make the most of another grass court event after his second round exit to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Wimbledon. He lost to 18-year-old American Denis Kudla in Newport, Rhode Island before travelling to Atlanta and falling to Rajeev Ram in the first round despite being seeded fifth. In the same tournament, Ryan Harrison reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Mardy Fish. Harrison is also well inside the top 100 and improving on his highest ever ranking position all the time while Dimitrov is still at a respectable #57.

Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki continued her remarkable comeback by reaching the same stage of the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, joining 22-year-old Dominika Cibulkova. The German was cast aside by an imperious Serena Williams whilst the Slovakian had to retire before her match with Marion Bartoli but her ranking has improved to world number 16.

Youngsters Tamira Paszek and Irina Falconi both made the semi-finals of the WTA International tournament the Citi Open. Austrian 20-year-old Paszek made the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and has seen her world ranking increase to number 36 in the world while American 21-year-old Falconi is back in the top 100. Bojana Jovanovski made the quarter-finals and Eugenie Bouchard reached the second round as a wildcard.

As the hard court events got underway Ernests Gulbis produced a stunning turnaround from recent form. The 22-year-old ended a five-match slump to win his first round match at the Los Angeles Tennis Open against fifth seed Xavier Malisse. From then on the Latvian seemed re-born, smashing former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro 6-2, 6-4 en route to winning the tournament outright 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 against top 10 player Mardy Fish in the final. He’s now rose 29 places to number 55 in the world.

Ernests Gulbis

Sabine Returns

Prior to Sabine Lisicki’s incredible victory against French Open champion Li Na, this post was due to be titled “Anyone for bagels?” as the young players struggled to make an impact at Wimbledon this year.

Two 19-year-olds in Melanie Oudin and Kristyna Pliskova were destroyed 6-0 in their opening sets of the first round before going out to Ana Ivanovic and Marion Bartoli respectively.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, another 19-year-old, made it to the second round but after reaching the quarter-finals at Roland Garros and being 14th seed it was a surprise to see her lose in straight sets to Nadia Petrova.

Sticking with the pre-20 age group Simona Halep almost produced a stunning result against one of the title favourites Serena Williams.

The Romanian, who beat Bojana Jovanovski in round one, took the first set versus Williams before the American turned up the heat and showed why she’s won at The All England Club for the past two years. Halep eventually lost 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 and saved suffering a bagel in the last set.

Second round casualties also came for Rebecca Marino, Polona Hercog and Christina McHale with the latter producing a great first round result beating 28th seed Ekaterina Makarova 8-6 in the third set.

Speaking of 8-6 in the third set, Sabine Lisicki is now firmly back amongst top level tennis again. You may have heard her story several times over the last few hours but it’s worth repeating.

Ranked outside the top 200 this year having been out for seven months with a severe ankle injury, the current world number 62 and Aegon Classic champion saved two match points to reach the third round of Wimbledon over Chinese sensation Li Na.

The tennis was outstanding, the drama even better and now her chances of equalling the quarter-final run she had in 2009 is seemingly possible.

Her next opponent is another Asian player but with very much less experience. Japan’s Misaki Doi is 19-years-old and ranked outside the top 100 but has come through qualifying and Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ tennis ball sleeves along the way to the third round.

Another good match-up is Maria Sharapova vs. Laura Robson. If Robson wants to announce herself on the WTA Tour then she’ll have no better chance to do so against the woman who won at SW19 as a 17-year-old.

Robson is at that age now and although her chances of emulating her junior win on centre court in the seniors, a victory over the fifth seed would top anything she’s done in her career up to this point.

For her compatriot Heather Watson, it was a disappointing end to a steady-looking win as an elbow injury ultimately left her serving redundant and an often wild Mathilde Johansson took the match 2-6 6-4 6-4.

The men didn’t have much luck either although there were some promising signs which still need to be decided tomorrow.

Grigor Dimitrov has been likened to Roger Federer and you can see why. He possesses such talent and looks like a Grand Slam winner of the future.

This year Jo-Wilfried Tsonga proved to much of a task to overcome after several rain delays but the recently turned 20-year-old fought all the way to the end, producing wonderful tennis along the way.

On the other courts Bernard Tomic and Ryan Harrison were busy announcing why they’ve been hyped along with Dimitrov.

Tomic continues tomorrow against Igor Andreev after winning the third set to make it 2-1 and David Ferrer will try to come back from 2-1 down against Harrison.

Elsewhere the dream third round tie between Milos Raonic and Rafael Nadal didn’t materialise after the Canadian had to retire in the previous round whilst Kei Nishikori battled but couldn’t prevent Lleyton Hewitt rolling back the years and taking a first round win. Alexandr Dolgopolov also lost to Fernando Gonzalez in the opening round.

Grigor Dimitrov

Last week at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham I reluctantly purchased a programme for £5 to pile on top of the expenses of my four-day Parisian venture.

Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli were featured inside despite not partaking in the tournament whilst Ana Ivanovic wasn’t despite making the semi-finals. The joys of an ever-changing sporting landscape.

Luckily the advertisement-filled glossy proved a decent buy thanks to a three-page section entitled “The Next Generation”. You can see why it would be of some interest.

In it, there were six players (three from either sex) whom we are told to “keep an eye on”.

I arrogantly told my accompanying friend I’d been tracking Bojana Jovanovski, Heather Watson and Milos Raonic since the early days of this blog and had also covered Alexandr Dolgopolov and Christina McHale in some capacity too. But the one I hadn’t mentioned at all on here was Grigor Dimitrov.

This is how they described the Bulgarian:

Sees himself as a future world no.1 and believes he has no weaknesses. Former coach Peter Lundgren, who helped Roger Federer to his first Grand Slam title, has said that Dimitrov is a better player as a teenager than the Swiss was in his teens.

Without wanting to reach cocky-level again, I did know of Dimitrov before but thought against writing a post or checking his progress at Grand Slams or on tour.

Yet he’s being compared to Roger Federer? A closer inspection, therefore, is a must.

So far Dimitrov has reached a peak of #63 (on his 20th birthday no less) and hasn’t moved much from that position achieved a month ago, dropping just one place.

He’s quite a tall player at 6’2” and possesses the element that draws the Federer comparisons, the one-handed backhand.

His best achievements have been the boys’ singles titles at Wimbledon and the US Open which led to his junior world ranking of number one. Federer didn’t succeed with the middle of these three triumphs but did reach the final at Flushing Meadows losing to David Nalbandian.

And this is where the career paths begin to shift in opposite directions. Dimitrov has yet to win an ATP World Tour title or make a mark on the Grand Slam stage at senior level.

Comparing him to the greatest player of all time is daunting. Looking at his chances compared to his fellow prospects shows he’s still in with a chance of making it, albeit not to Federer’s level.

Also featured next to Dimitrov were Raonic and Dolgopolov. The former just turned 20 when he made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open before going on to win his first ATP World Tour title in San Jose whilst the latter made it to the last eight in Melbourne as a 21-year-old.

Therefore the next few months are going to be critical for Dimitrov. Raonic and Dolgopolov are now established top 50 players and earning seeding positions.

If Dimitrov is to make half as much impact as Federer he’ll have to catch up with the aforementioned duo rapidly. With the grass court season upon us, he may just do that but improving his return of serve is critical having only won 18% of 154 return games played this year.

Certainly, I’ll be looking out for him more in the next 12 months. The Federer backhand is the most wonderful stroke in the sport and to see it executed for another ten years at the top of the game via the hands of Dimitrov would be a delight.

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