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.