Posts Tagged ‘Grigor Dimitrov’


Rajat Jain
Head of Tennis, The CouchExpert
30 August 2011

Grigor Dimitrov

Grigor Dimitrov


I will not blame somebody with a bird’s eye view who was watching the simultaneous matches of Roger Federer and his baby clone Grigor Dimitrov and confuse the latter with the former. The service motion, the fluid footwork, the one handed backhand, the powerful down the line punch and the hands at the net. They all look identical, including the Nike logo on their attire and sporting a single wrist band on their respective right hands. It is not difficult to envision how Dimitrov has clearly modeled himself like his idol (he was even coached by Federer’s former coach, Peter Lungdren).

However, today was the exact day where you would be taken back to your childhood days when you solved comic puzzles involving two nearly identical pictures placed side by side and you were asked to spot ten differences between the two pictures. The moment Dimitrov lost to Gael Monfils in three regulation sets, I switched my telecast to Arthur Ashe stadium where his idol was on the verge of winning the first set against Santiago Giraldo. Just fresh after being entertained by Dimitrov’s elegance and Monfils’ acrobatics, it was much easier and much more obvious to compare the difference between the fresh raw product and the extremely finished one.

—The most obvious difference was how Federer could stay in the rally for 10, 15, 20 shots and still manage to win the point. Dimitrov often threw up an error once the point went beyond six or seven shots.

—At one point, Dimitrov came forward of an approach, but Monfils hustled to put up a great lob. Dimitrov, going backwards, was visibly off balance and promptly spilled the overhead two feet beyond the baseline. On another such shot Federer was pushed back to the baseline as the ball soared in the air. Federer seemed to have more than enough time to see the side where his opponent was leaning,  added the precise amount of slice to the overhead, and hit it for a winner.

—Monfils, crowd pleaser that he is, tried a poor drop shot that stood up. Dimitrov judged it a split second late, but still reached on time. He hit a beautiful backhand down the line (which made me go “Awwwww Yes!”), but imparted more spin than needed which not only allowed Monfils enough time to react, but also to dispatch it past the Bulgarian. When Federer was presented with such an opportunity, he nicely got on top of the ball, and hit it flat past his hustling opponent for a clean winner.

—Monfils hit a serve striaght at Dimitrov’s backhand and approached the net in style. Dimitrov had enough time to dispatch a backhand down-the-line passing shot winner and make the Frenchman look stupid. Monfils applauded and tried to challenge in vain for a ball which clearly looked in. Turned out, it was not. It was a couple of inches out. When such an opportunity was given to Federer, he hit a similar down-the-line, but hit it short enough so that the ball landed on the service line. A great passing shot.

—I lost count of the number of instances where Federer non-chalantly returned a half volley from the baseline with enough depth. Dimitrov on the other hand invariably returned it short enough to allow the acrobatics of Monfils to come into play.

—When a return was short, Dimitrov was found struggling on what to do. Should he go forward enough to take a volley, allow the ball to bounce and hit a forehand winner, take a half volley, or just stay safe at the baseline? Almost always, he was found in the mid court at the mercy of Monfils. It was good to watch as Dimitrov had enough talent to take the ball from anywhere and return it back, but Monfils always had the advantage and mostly he ended up winning the point. When Federer approached the net, he knew exactly where to punch the ball. Even if it was returned back, Federer was there at the exact position to hit the next winner. No theatrics like Dimitrov were required and he rarely lost such a point.

Roger Federer

Roger Federer

—Federer saved break points with service winners. Dimitrov lost service games, twice, with double faults on break points.

If I was to select just one glaring difference between the two, it was the surity in their court positions, which was like north pole (Federer) and south pole (Dimitrov). Of course, it is unfair to compare an upcoming 20 year old with a veteran and probably the greatest player ever, it shows how subtle the differences are between a top three player and one ranked below 50. Dimitrov is still a raw product, but is beginning to ripe. Even during the end of the third set, he was showing committment by hustling and running around the court, sometimes a bit too much as he pulled a couple of hamstrings routinely, and hitting some great first serves in tricky positions. He needs consistent match play in order to convert his genius into greatness.


Rajat jain

Head of Tennis, CouchExpert

24 January 2011

 

After watching Robin Soderling’s yet another unceremonious exit from the Australian Open (he lost in the opening round last year), I have finally figured out why these courts do not suit this big man. The courts here are fast enough that they give his opponent a good chance to make him run around the court, and expose his fragile movement, and they are slow enough to not provide Soderling with a good enough penetration. Moreover, the relatively low bounce of these courts (compared to the French) do not suit Soderling at all.

Soderling thrives on extremes. The extremely slow conditions at Paris with bounce high enough to allow him to generate his own pace, or the extremely fast conditions of indoors to enable him to hit the first strike. He does not have a good transition game to thrive on these courts. The other stalwart of Melbourne, Andre Agassi, didn’t have that either, but he had the great return of serve, and ability to take the ball ridiculously early to make him a legend at these medium paced courts (in addition to his four titles at Australia, he has also won Miami six times, a record). Soderling has neither.

His opponent, the 22 year old Alexandr Dolgopolov utilized his weaknesses efficiently. Dolgopolov. This was the first time I watched this kid play, and I already like him—especially his last name. I said his name aloud quite a few times during this match, and he gave me enough reason to cheer for him.

In some ways, it is Dolgopolov, rather than Grigor Dimitrov, who reminds me of Roger Federer. He may not have Federer’s aesthetic one handed backhand, but he possesses two of the most important strengths of Federer—the efficient playing style (he hardly looked tired during the match even though this was his second consecutive five setter), and effortless movement around the court. Plus he has a variety of ground strokes to easily trouble Soderling.

He intelligently used his slice forehands to easily return Soderling’s big serves, and robbed him of pace with continual use of slices. When they did not seem to work, he was equally comfortable at being aggressive with his two hander, and he always had the option of running his opponent wide off court with his unique jumping top spin forehand which has enough depth and angle to trouble even the best movers in the game—Soderling was a gimme. In the third set, he was so comfortable with Soderling’s game, that he was routinely stranding Soderling by placing one drop shot after other. Soderling, who normally does not show any emotions on court other than determined fist pumps at his camp, was literally screaming in frustration.

As I said before, his game revolves around efficiency. Just like Federer, he looks like a ballet dancer on court, albeit of a different style. His inexperience showed in the fourth set as he started sensing the finish line after breaking Soderling thrice in the third set, but quickly regrouped in the decider to win the fifth set very comfortably.

This is his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, and his next test will be sterner. Murray has dropped just 22 games so far in the tournament, and will like Dolgopolov’s unorthodox game. He moves far better than Soderling, and has many dimensions in his game which would force Dolgopolov to think over his strategy mid way during the match. Dolgopolov just achieved his greatest victory in a short career so far, but as it is for any youngster, the road only gets tougher. Can he be this year’s dark horse at Melbourne? I would definitely be waiting for that to happen.

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