The first two matches of the day on Stadium Court and Grandstand at the Sony Ericsson Open progressed in a similar fashion and showcased four of the ATP Tour’s most eccentric on-court thinkers who are known to overanalyze strategy often inhibiting their own play. Today, however, Janko Tipsarevic and Grigor Dimitrov were able to stay composed and bested their respective opponents, Alexander Dolgopolov and Tomas Berych.
Both matches went the distance as Serb Janko Tipsarevic defeated Ukranian Alexander Dolgopolov on Grandstand while Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov ousted Czech player Tomas Berdych on Stadium Court. The two matches were spinning images of each other as initially Tipsarevic and Dimitrov took their respective first sets, followed by Dolgopolov and Berdych taking their respective second sets. In the end, the Serb and the Bulgarian reclaimed their momentum from their respective first set wins.
On Grandstand court, Tipsarevic took a commanding lead in the first set as he broke Dologopolov twice in the first set and never looked back. He held triple set point serving at 5-4, and hit an easy approach shot winner that Dolgopolov basically watched go past him without attempting any kind of retrieval.
Dolgopolov’s errors continued as he saw himself down 15-40 serving in the fifth game, but managed to come back and win the game with an inside-out forehand planted deeply in the back ad corner.
On serve at 3-3, Dolgopolov easily took the next game with four straight points and ended with a service winner. The two picked up their pace of play as both went for more winners, forcing a tiebreak until Dolgopolov held set point on Tipsarevic’s serve, 5-6, 30-40. After a successful Dolgopolov challenge, the replay of the point saw Dolgopolov hit an unreachable winner to give him the second set at 7-5.
The deciding set saw Tipsarevic re-establish his composure quickly as he broke Dolgopolov twice early on, to go up 3-0. The Ukranian once again began to be visibly frustrated as he began hitting his shoes with his racquet and talking to himself between points. Dolgopolov was granted a generous break point opportunity down 1-4 on Tipsarevic’s serve that he just refused to convert, failing to hit into a basically open court as Tipsarevic was caught off-balance mid-point. Tipsarevic finally edged out his opponent on his first matchpoint and let out a roar as he won 6-2 in the third.
In his post-match interview, Tipsarevic commented on why a lead on Dolgopolov early in a match helps:
“It’s much easier to play against him if you have a break lead, especially against him, because he’s really tricky and you don’t know what to expect. A few of the times he looks like he’s not even trying to win; he’s like pissed at himself for being on the court, and then out of nowhere, it’s love-30 or love-4o on your serve. So I’m happy that in the first and in the third set, I managed the early breaks better. I had semi-chances in the second set which I did not use, and this resulted on him breaking me on forehand-backhand slices.”
Meanwhile on stadium court, a familiar face to the tennis world watched Grigor Dimitrov take on Tomas Berdych. Serena Williams tried her hand at being an inconspicuous onlooker, but with the stands relatively empty, the cameras picked up on her presence right away. The famous onlooker is perhaps exactly what Dimitrov needed in his camp to pull out a forceful first set that finished with an ace to go up 6-3.
But of course, every confidence boost in the young Bulgarians blood causes him to start thinking too much about his shot selection and he was broken straightway in the second game of the second set. The more ‘headcasey’ of the two players would tend to be Berdych, but surprisingly, he kept calm and focused on his own game without being affected by what was across the net.
Dimitrov struggled to hold serve in the fourth game, going to deuce several times, before finally getting on the scoreboard at 1-3. The two continued to hold serve with Berdych moving well and staying composed. Dimitrov meanwhile continued to struggle with his own psyche and shot choice as he time and again would hit a lob instead of a passing shot, or hesitate to go for a clear put away winner. The end of the set saw Dimitrov double fault, giving Berdych the second set, 6-2.
The final set saw a bit of everything as both players fought for every point and took risks at the baseline. There was self-deprecation, yelling and even some slipping and sliding by Dimitrov. The men stayed on each other’s serves not allowing the slightest chance to break, until Dimitrov finally broke in the ninth game of the set and held serve to win, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
In his post-match press conference Dimitrov admits that “I didn’t expect to play that well … I had a couple of things that I knew if they were not going in the right way I would have lost the match. Got a bit lucky at 4‑All in the third, and, yeah, I was happy to close the match.”
This is Dimitrov’s first top 10 win in 10 career outings and certainly only the beginning of his illustrious young career. Maybe he should bring Serena with him when he travels all the time; seems to be his good luck charm.
In a battle of the Eastern Europeans, Tipsarevic and Dimitrov will next face off in fourth round play on Tuesday at the Sony Ericsson Open.
Andy Murray, The “Coach”
First up on Stadium Court was Andy Murray who advanced over Alejandro Falla in straight sets with little resistance from the Colombian, 6-2, 6-3. In Murray’s press conference, he acknowledged Falla’s presence in tennis as a “tough player” since he “pushed Federer in Wimbledon” and beat Mardy Fish at the Australian Open.
The other day I commented on how Ivan Lendl didn’t seem to be “coaching” during Murray’s practice session, rather being a bit passive. It seems that Lendl posing questions to Murray has worked better for their relationship than Lendl simply directing Murray as to what needs to be done on court. Murray, the always independent thinker, commented thoroughly and honestly on the way his relationship with his coach has developed.
“A lot of ex‑players view things like ‘This is how I would have done it in that situation,’ or ‘That’s how I would have played,’ or whatever. Whereas Ivan has been actually very, very good with that.
He asks a lot of questions, as well, to understand why you maybe chose to hit a certain shot or what your favorite shots in certain moments are. He’s been very, very good with that — which is not the case with all coaches. He also understands that there are a lot of things that coaches can do that maybe annoy players. (Murray then cited Tony Roche feeding balls from the side of the court as one of these annoyances.)
He just asks the questions and I give him the answers. We have had no problems so far (smiling).”
Ana Ivanovic, The Wine Taster
Serbian Ana Ivanovic had a tougher time against her opponent Vania King, but finally prevailed after being broken in the second set, 6-4, 7-5. The American moved well and executed her backhand down-the-line especially well, making her a tough riddle for Ivanovic to solve. Ivanovic mentioned the heat as not being a factor and the minimal wind to be the difference between here and Indian Wells. The Serb also wasn’t shy talking about how she will celebrate reaching one of her goals this year.
“I’m just really happy with where my game is at the moment. Also, I was real excited to be ranked 10 in the race, which was kind of my goal for the year. So that kind of was exciting. I was like, ‘Oh, we have to have a glass of wine tonight.’”
When asked about what kind of wine, she answered: “I like Australian shiraz. Red wine. I don’t drink white. That’s actually the only thing I can drink.”
Novak Djokovic, The Ambassador
Although Novak Djokovic had no match today, he conducted a special media press conference answering questions on a variety of topics. He was quick to remind the media that the Sony Ericsson Open was the first ATP-level tournament he won in his career back in 2007. What a path this current world #1 has paved in the last five years!
Usually the entertainer, Djokovic took a more serious yet still cheerful tone to his interview as he talked about enjoying the island life at Key Biscayne, “walking” and “biking” around. He also commented on Serbia’s influence in tennis, but in a slightly different wording than the tennis world is used to:
“[The Serbian tennis players] are always seeking to improve and get better. I believe that our past that we had in our country, which was very turbulent, I have to say, helped us to discover that great desire for success and to become one of the world’s best tennis players. This mentality — very, very strong mentality — is actually something that separates, I think, people from that region from any other.”
John Isner, The Wannabe Singleton
Newly-crowned world number 10 John Isner found himself in a jam when he soundly lost the first set to Nikolay Davydenko, 6-2. He was able to recover and win in three, and even finished off with four of his fastest serves of the night — 137, 135, 136 and 129 mph. In his post-match presser he elaborated what the new ranking meant, or rather didn’t mean, to him.
“I didn’t look at the rankings and stare at it or anything like that. It’s something I thought I could accomplish. Now that I have, I’m happy, but I’m definitely not satisfied.
But for sure, it has sunk in. It sunk in, I guess, as soon as I got into the top 10. But, you know, I’m number 10. As my coach says, I want to become a singleton. I want to … have a single digit by my name instead of two.”
Does ‘9’ count, John?