Another major breakthrough for Grigor as Bencic backs up! Mixed Emotions elsewhere for tennis fans!

Having won his first Masters Series title in Cincinnati in the lead up to the U.S Open,  Dimitrov has gone one bigger this time by winning the Nitto ATP Tour Finals. Grigor was the outstanding player all week, having hit through the nerves to edge Dominic Thiem out in his opener, he then blitzed his way past David Goffin and Pablo Carreno Busta for the loss of just 4 games in his next two round-robin matches! He was joined in the semi’s by David Goffin, who having beat Rafa Nadal in his opener, then lost to the Bulgarian which meant he had a winner takes all match against Thiem in the Pete Sampras Group. Having led 3/0 the Austrian won only two more games in the match going down 6/4 6/1, it was a pretty disappointing performance and he looks shot of confidence right now, I really think better scheduling and a good rest are needed! Rafa also needs a good rest and should have pulled out pre-tournament in hindsight, he clearly wasn’t right against Goffin but he gave it a go in true Nadal fashion. His imminent pullout after the first group match looked an absolute cert, Pablo Carreno Busta gained two extra matches and vital experience as the beneficiary of his withdrawal!

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Roger Federer won the Boris Becker Group, like Dimitrov with a 3-0 record but the Federer-Express had several problems in doing so. Having had a stellar season the 36-year-old had looked beatable all week. Having already beaten Jack Sock in a tight straight sets in his opening round-robin match I was at his second match against Sascha Zverev,  the winner booking a place in the semi’s final in the process (Zverev beat Cilic in his opening match). Now, Sascha had him in all kinds of problems and actually could have won this in straights, had he taken his chances and not blown a 4/0 lead in the first set breaker. Having done well to level the match in the second the German blew up from 1/1 in the decider and gift-wrapped the victory for Federer. Sascha ended up missing out on the last 4 completely by losing to Sock in another straight shoot-out on Thursday.

After the Federer v Zverev encounter it was clear Federer wasn’t at his best and could be beaten, it was just a question of could anyone give themselves that opportunity and what would they do with it if that occurred! I have to be honest, I didn’t think that it would be David Goffin that would oblige. The Belgian was pretty aggressive off the ground and said he tried a different approach having won only two sets in his previous six encounters with the Fed-Ex. It worked for sure and having lost the opening set he took control and in fairness showed few nerves beating the tournament favourite 2/6 6/3 6/4. Dimitrov was showing signs of nerves, as he had in his opening match against Thiem but he shrugged these aside, in the end, to beat Jack Sock in the second semi-final, coming from a set down, 4/6 6/0 6/3. The American can be very pleased with his season, big improvements have been made without a doubt! Some gutsy efforts again here!

I think the general public viewed the final as a disappointment on paper but they were proven very, very wrong, I was lucky enough to get a ticket and it was top draw! The atmosphere was decent, though at times slightly rowdy at inappropriate moments.  Admittedly both players were suffering from nerves early only on but once they both settled in it was a classic! The Bulgarian was the edgier of the two initially but settled to break back and then again to take the opener 7/5. It looked likely to be over in two but Goffin then broke when his back was against the wall and then served out for the set! Both players came out firing in the decider but when Goffin went wide with a backhand when facing break point at 2/3, it handed Dimitrov the chance he had been waiting for. He served it out for a 7/5 4/6 6/3 victory and fell to his feet, this is another big step, now the Bulgarian will look to do it over 5 sets for the biggest of all break-throughs! We have always known the talent is there, this year it has been proven!

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The Doubles final was won by second seeds Henri Kontinen/ John Peers who beat the top-seeded pair of  Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo 6/4 6/2. Having won the title last season at the first attempt they have retained their crown despite losing their opening round-robin match to Michael Venus/Ryan Harrison.

Belinda Bencic backed up her Hua Hin win with a victory in Taipei last week. She beat Viktorija Golubic and Arantxa Rus in the semis and final and looks to be good to go when the season starts next year. Bencic will be a very dangerous floater in draws until she reaches the top 32 again, that should not take that long!

Some very sad news filtered through last night with the death of Jana Novotna confirmed after her battle with cancer. I remember that very special Wimbledon title in 1998 like it was yesterday and what a popular champion she was, the 49-year-old had also won 16 Grand Slam Doubles Titles. This is another reminder of the cruel world that we can live in. R.I.P Jana.

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A huge congratulations goes out to Serena Williams, The G.O.A.T has married Alexis Ohanian over the weekend in New Orleans. This is massive news, they are one sexy couple and this is really fantastic stuff, so pleased for the pair of them and Alexis Olympia. Very Cute all round!

On a final note, Muzza and Lendl have split by mutual consent for the second time, the Scotsman’s next move will be pretty interesting! Murray usually nails it and makes the right decision but at the moment I am still pretty concerned about the hip!

Andy Del Potro

 

 

 

 

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