Welcome to another installment of LiveAnalysis! Today’s match-up will feature the second ever encounter between World Number 1 Novak Djokovic, and a man Juan Martín Del Potro said would be “Number 1 very soon”: Grigor Dimitrov. Djokovic opened his Indian Wells campaign with an unconvincing performance against an inspired Fabio Fognini, who pushed their second round match into a third set, whereas Grigor Dimitrov easily beat Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden in his only match in the California desert (Dimitrov nabbed one of the last 1st round byes available)
As I mentioned above, this is will be just the second meeting between Djokovic and Dimitrov. Here is what their head-to-head looks like:
Here are a few things about that lone match, which took place less than half a year ago:
- The match took only 54 minutes.
- Grigor Dimitrov only won 18% (2 of 11) 2nd serve points), and never created a break point chance for himself.
- I must have watched that match, since I watched most of Shanghai…yet I don’t remember a single thing about it.
Three Things to Watch For:
1. Can Grigor Dimitrov protect his serve effectively? He clearly didn’t in Shanghai, and not doing so today would be disastrous. Can he summon any of the numbers that prompted me to write this? I think he needs to win at least 70% of his 1st serve points, and 50% of his 2nd serve points to have a chance.
2. Will Djokovic look to target Dimitrov’s forehand or backhand? The single-handed backhand seems like the obvious choice, but one never knows what Novak Djokovic will do. Against Fognini Djokovic refused to engage in many forehand rallies, to the puzzlement of many.
3. If things start going badly for Dimitrov…can he keep fighting to turn things around? The Bulgarian is not known as a fighter, and many players tend to cave in if Djokovic is in imperious form to start the match. This is a good opportunity for Dimitrov to show that he’s definitely one of the young guys to look out for this season and beyond.
The men are on the court, and Fergus Murphy is in the chair. We should be starting in a few minutes!
Remember to refresh this page often, as I will be providing game-by-game updates throughout the match!
First Set – Grigor Dimitrov will serve first.
0-0: Dimitrov opens with two straight aces. A good omen for his chances. Two Djokovic UFEs later, and a love hold is achieved.
1-0, Dimitrov: Djokovic responds with his own love service game. Things moving quickly.
1-1: Dimitrov races to a 40-0 lead…and double faults. First point “won” by the returner in this match. A Djokovic FH UFE later, and it’s a simple hold to 15 for Dimitrov.
Dimitrov has come out the gates serving very well, which bodes well for his chances, as well as for the Stadium 1 crowd’s chances to see a competitive match.
2-1, Dimitrov: Djokovic opens his service game with two straight BH UFEs. Both cross-court, too. Shaky start for the 2-time Indian Wells champ. It gets worse, as Djokovic double-faults to give Dimitrov 3 BPs. 0-40. Djokovic saves the 1st BP with a service winner, but then sends a CC FH UFE well long. Dimitrov with the opening break!
Dimitrov, sporting a half-baked goatee, forces the early break against Djokovic, with the Serb quickly going to his bag to change equipment.
— Dan Quarrell (@Dan_Eurosport) March 12, 2013
3-1, Dimitrov: The best returner in the world has managed to win all of 2 points on Dimitrov’s serve so far. And one of those was a Dimitrov double-fault. Dimitrov holds calmly at 15, in a game that included two more FH UFEs from Djokovic.
A pretty poor start for the World Number 1 does not get better. Dimitrov is holding very easily, and the UFEs are coming from all sides for Djokovic.
Stats Update: Thanks to the nice TennisTV stats, I can tell you that through 4 games, Novak Djokovic has won only 3 of the 11 baseline points played. And he’s committed 83% of unforced errors (10 of 12).
4-1, Dimitrov: Two bad UFEs and Djokovic is once again down 0-30. He then punishes a couple of short returns, and it’s 30-all. But Djokovic seals the hold to 30 with a service winner.
4-2, Dimitrov: Djokovic creates an insane angle from the middle of the court with his FH to get his first half chance in a Dimitrov game: 15-30. A blistering serve makes it 30-all, though. This is a nice test for that Dimitrov serve – he absolutely has to take this set, given how poor Djokovic has been. However, it seems like Djokovic is not missing anymore, and we’re at deuce for the first time in the match. AD Dimitrov after a good wide service winner. The men have a fun rally, which ends with a FH UFE by Djokovic.
Stats Update: Through seven games, Djokovic has 8 FH UFEs and 5 BH UFEs. Dimitrov? Just a single FH UFE.
5-2, Dimitrov: Djokovic holds at 30, in a game that included another DF, but enough good serves to force Dimitrov to serve the set out.
5-3, Dimitrov: Dimitrov starts with a double-fault, but follows it up with his 3rd ace of the match. However, that is followed by another DF, after the Bulgarian goes for a huge 2nd serve up the T. Needless. 15-30. Now Dimitrov double-faults AGAIN, after his 2nd serve clips the net. 2nd serve coming at 15-40. But…another bad Djokovic FH UFE erases that first BP. Incidentally, that was the 1st rally of the game. However, Dimitrov double-faults yet again, and Djokovic breaks…though Dimitrov did all of the breaking himself.
Four double faults from Dimitrov to had back the break. Even Maria could never.
— Tumaini (@tumcarayol) March 12, 2013
@juanjo_sports I can add that to my having won as many Tour de Frances as Lance Armstrong.
— Poppy Steward (@PoppyAnneMarie) March 12, 2013
Stats Update: Without the double-faults, Dimitrov had won all but 4 points on his serve up to that fateful 5-4 game. Lost only 1 point played on his 1st serve.
5-4, Dimitrov: Djokovic holds in a minute and 25 seconds. At love, naturally.
Truth RT @AmyFetherolf Failing to serve out a set against Djokovic? Maybe Grigor really is Baby Fed.
— Josh (@TheSixthSet) March 12, 2013
5-5: Dimitrov with a much, much needed love hold. The serve worked well, as it had in every single game except that 5-4 disaster.
6-5, Dimitrov: Dimitrov has a short ball at 40-15, but nets it. On to Tiebreak City!
Tiebreaker – Grigor Dimitrov will serve first.
0-0: Dimitrov double-faults. Again. His sixth DF of the match. MINIBREAK.
1-0, Djokovic: Djokovic with a nice BH DTL that draws a FH error from Dimitrov.
2-0, Djokovic: Service winner.
3-0, Djokovic: Another sweet BH DTL by Djokovic forces another FH error from Dimitrov. MINIBREAK.
4-0, Djokovic: Djokovic gets a crazy return in…but then Dimitrov sends a FH well long. MINIBREAK
5-0, Djokovic: Djokovic now with the FH UFE. MINIBREAK
5-1, Djokovic: Dimitrov with a huge FH winner from the middle of the court. MINIBREAK. It barely caught the line.
5-2, Djokovic: The men engage in a fun, brutal exchange, and it’s Dimitrov’s FH the one that cracks. MINIBREAK
6-2, Djokovic: Djokovic conceedes the point after a 1st serve winner was called out, and the challenged proved successful. Nice sportsmanship from the World Number 1, as he was clearly beaten by the serve, even if he did get a racquet on it.
6-3, Djokovic: Djokovic lines up a BH DTL…and misses it. MINIBREAK.
6-4, Djokovic: Djokovic takes the set after pounding Dimitrov’s BH with his inside-out FH.
First set to Novak Djokovic, 7-6(4)
Here are your full 1st set stats:
Second Set – Novak Djokovic will serve first.
0-0: Djokovic with a straightforward hold to 15.
Djokovic won a set in which he won fewer baseline points than his opponent and hit 19 UFEs. Basically because his opponent double-faulted 4 times when he had a chance to serve out the set. Oh, and said gentleman also double-faulted to start the 1st set tiebreaker.
1-0, Djokovic: Djokovic starts peppering Dimitrov’s BH, and finds himself with a BP. Which is erased by a HUGE ace out wide. Deuce #1. Another Dimitrov BH UFE and it’s BP #2 for Djokovic (in this set). A very loose FH UFE from Dimitrov gives Djokovic the early break in the 2nd set!
2-0, Djokovic: Djokovic double-faults at 40-0, and then goes for a big FH that just misses. 40-30. A service winner clinches the game for Djokovic, though.
As I wrote above in the “Things to Watch for”, I would like to see some fight from Dimitrov, given how badly things have gone for him. Or at the very least I’d like to see something from him that would indicate that he’ll at least graze the top 10 at some point in his career.
Here’s a nice graph of Dimitrov’s shot placement:
At least that tells you that Dimitrov was playing with the right tactics in mind. But not even the best gameplan in the world is immune to 4 double-faults when serving a set of tennis.
3-0, Djokovic: Dimitrov threatens to go down a double break, after poor errors make it 0-30. But the Bulgarian comes back to hold at 30 after Djokovic sends a BH return tamely into the net.
Stats Update: Through the first 3 games of the 2nd set, Djokovic has now gained the upper hand in baseline points, albeit only by one. However, it doesn’t seem like Djokovic committed a single more UFE, while Dimitrov now collects 20 of his own (6 of which are double-faults). Djokovic still leads the FH UFE “race”, 13 to 9.
3-1, Djokovic: Djokovic holds comfortably in a game that included a very nice passing shot hit from the service line. Loved how Djokovic took his time to settle his feet, take aim, and pummel that BH. Dimitrov got a racquet on it…but his shot had no chance of going over the net.
Nice crowd to see this match:
4-1, Djokovic: Dimitrov sends a BH into the net, and then a FH long. He’s down 15-40, and gets broken again with another tame BH UFE.
Another very sad game for Dimitrov, who has apparently checked out of this match. This is exactly what I didn’t want to see from him today.
5-1, Djokovic: In absolutely no time, Djokovic serves out the match at love. The men share a nice moment at net:
Game, Set and Match to Novak Djokovic, 7-6(4), 6-1.
Here are your full match stats:
Everything was going very well for Grigor Dimitrov – right until he walked towards the baseline to serve out the first set against the World Number One. The young Bulgarian had served extremely well up to that point, and was set to punish a thoroughly sloppy Novak Djokovic, who was gifting points left and right. In simple terms, Dimitrov had played well enough to take the set, and Djokovic played badly enough to lose it.
And then… the double faults happened. Four of them, to be precise. Dimitrov broke himself, and even if he produced a nice service game at 5-all, he started the very key tiebreaker by double-faulting. In a blink of an eye, Djokovic was up 5-0. To make matters worse, Djokovic stopped being mediocre, and quickly went up a break to start the 2nd set. At that point, the match was over, and Grigor Dimitrov never threatened again.
If you look at the way Dimitrov played up to that 5-3 game, you could say that yes, the Bulgarian surely looks the part of a contender for the future. But what to make of what happened next? What to make of Dimitrov’s inability to regroup? What about the way he folded against an opponent that was practically begging him to take the first set? Djokovic had barely managed to win points on Dimitrov’s serve (all of five, to be precise – and one was a double fault), yet Dimitrov found a way to hand over his break advantage in the worst possible way.
If Grigor Dimitrov was 18 years old and this was his first ever big-time match… I get it. But it wasn’t. He’s been around enough times. He’s been a pro for enough years. He’s at the stage of showing something closer to a finished product instead of just twenty minutes worth of competence.
This might sound harsh, but at this point, I’m not expecting anything big from Grigor Dimitrov. Which is a pity, because the Bulgarian is certainly not lacking in talent.
Now, about the man who just won his 20th straight match: I’m not quite sure what to make of his level at Indian Wells so far. Judging by Djokovic’s comments, he’s not all that fond of the slow, high-bouncing surface. This is not really a surprise, given how content he seemed in the way faster surface laid out in Dubai, and on the much faster Australian Open. Still, whatever was bothering him in the first set should have cost him a set: he was that bad during it. And Djokovic should know by now that giving away a set in a M1000 can be a very dangerous proposition.
Yes, Djokovic did go from 19 unforced errors in the 1st set (think about that number for a bit), to just 3 in the second. He was competent to close out the match, no doubt about it. But his opponent had already checked out of the match, so it’s not like things were overly complicated.
Up next is Sam Querrey, who is the last man to beat Novak Djokovic, and the last man to beat the Serb before a final, since Andy Murray did it at the Olympics last year. That was a long, long time ago. Querrey played a very tough three-setter against Marinko Matosevic, but will surely feel encouraged by what Djokovic has shown against Fognini the other day and against Dimitrov today. Plus, Sam is bound to have the crowd in his favor in what is set up to be an intriguing night session at Stadium 1.
Should be a fun one.