Sorry for the delay and I need to make this quick. . .ha ha.
We’ll actually start with today’s matches from Group Sampras:
They seemed, for me, very similar as far as a general take-away, how the matches played-out and who won vs. who lost.
Dimitrov v Thiem
Simply put, Dimitrov right now, on this surface, is the better player. The surface, especially as it’s apparently pretty quick (Paris-Bercy-esque), with the lower bounce, will clearly benefit certain styles. The Dimitrov v Thiem match emphasized this point as the more offensive Bulgarian had the advantage really throughout.
I watched most, if not all, of all four matches, so some of the details of each are a bit foggy, but Dimitrov should have won in straights. In fact, wasn’t he serving for match in the second? I don’t need the specifics necessarily, but Dimitrov showed that little bit of gag that we’ve seen, even this year, quite a bit unfortunately. The call of the match brought-up 2017 Madrid where Dimitrov had something like five MPs before eventually succumbing to the Austrian.
A combination of Dimtrov’s inability to close and the tough clutch tennis of Dominic pushed this match to a third. Grigor was just too tough in the end.
Style certainly played a huge factor. Watching Thiem camp so far behind the BL and try to dig-out of that hole on almost every point was like watching a guy with an injury, almost. He ballooned balls, resorted to that dreadful constant-CC shot-making, so the fact that this went three sets is really a credit to the Dom, who is, even in this form, in this setting, a lot of fun to watch. The serve kept him alive, as well. He’s got a ton of game, at his second ATP Finals, so we have a lot to look forward to with this nut. We continue to Beliem in Thiem (t-shirts are on back-order).
Goffin v Nadal
Whatever I said about today’s first match, ditto for this one. Nadal’s knee is clearly sour (I see that he’s officially pulled-out, which was pretty evident as he played this long, brutal three-setter; even as he left the court with the way he waved at the crowd, one could assume he was done). And given his affinity for this type of court/tennis venue, like Thiem, he seemed like a fish-out-of-water. Even a healthy Nadal, barring a “gift” from the tennis gods, was going to find this tournament pretty challenging. With word that the speed was Paris Masters-like, especially with the ball staying low, not reaching that sweet-spot and above for the big top-spinners trying to attack a one-hander high, etc., Nadal was, again, here at the year-end tournament of champions, so to speak, going to most likely be on the outside-looking-in.
Hence the Thiem – Nadal parallel in today’s play. Goffin, despite practically trying to snatch a loss from the jaws of victory, eventually got it done. His tennis is a pleasure to watch unless he’s double-faulting, say, back-to-back trying to serve-out a set.
Like the first match, this should’ve been Goffin in straights. Credit to Nadal for willing his way in that second set TB. Goffin definitely gifted the Spaniard in some pretty critical spots of this match. If you watched, you know. No need to beat-up the Belgian too much; he might just have matured a bit tonight. He deserved to win and, in the end, he did.
But like I said, the two matches played-out quite similarly for me. Dimitrov and Goffin were both in the proverbial driver’s seat, playing a guy a bit compromised (or more), with a style advantage, who should’ve made this more routine than it was.
Back to Goffin’s style: taking the ball early like that and able to change direction so well on the BH — very much a tennis player’s player, I suspect. Tremendous that he does so well, plays so consistently, without a big weapon (serve, FH, etc.). But that ability to hit down both sides, tough to read for opponents, good from both wings. . .just a pleasure to watch and I’m happy for him that he got over the hump on this one.
Against the big 5:
1-5 v Djokovic (won their 2017 Monte Carlo QF)
0-6 v Federer
0-5 v Murray
1-3 v Wawrinka (2016 IW)
1-3 v Nadal (now)
All this means is he’s learning how to play in these bigger matches.
Zverev v Cilic
This seemed pretty predictable, but nice to see Cilic give Sascha (and the crowd) a little scare or sense of 2014 😉
Zverev seems to be one who can challenge for this title. Cilic too, but you can just see Zverev’s consistency and confidence, not to mention his athleticism; Cilic is a bit gangly, awkward and now showing his vulnerability (other than 2014 September this has always been the case, perhaps).
Cilic won only one title this year, which seems a bit of a surprise (Istanbul). But he did make the QF in each major and did make the Queen’s Club final, where he played a classic v Feli Lopez (we wrote a bit about that, look it up: Cilic was a contender going-in to Wimbledon, more or less).
The point is he’s not on the same level of Zverev the younger at this point. Like today’s matches, nice to see Cilic grab a set, but Zverev seemed always, pretty much, a game or two away from raising his level and finishing this match.
Federer v Sock
As relatively routine as this looks from the score-line, I didn’t see it that way. Ironically, Federer looked more vulnerable in the first set. Jumping on Sock early was Nadal-like, stealing a game and simply holding-on. Even though the statisticians are quick to say Federer didn’t face a BP on his serve all match, that first set was quite uneasy. He did raise is serve in the second set, for sure. Sock continued to play pretty well, too.
But Sock had several DFs and costly errors that made life a bit easier for Federer.
The upside for Roger, which he pretty much acknowledged himself, is getting more comfortable with the court speed, etc. He didn’t play Paris-Bercy, so this might account for some of his less than stellar play.
We will know a lot more after tomorrow. Zverev will be much bigger, in general, better BH, etc. Sock was tough, but, again, some of those gifts took some of the air out of this contest.
I suspect Federer will step-up his play knowing this is probably his finals opponent if that’s how this plays-out.
Hope you’re enjoying the tennis.