Dimitrov 6-3 7-6 Shapovalov: Denis struggled with his backhand return as Grigor gets a much needed win!

When it comes to Grigor Dimitrov finding his level of consistency that saw him get to world number three I am optimistic. I have followed Dimitrov throughout his career and three words stuck in my mind from August 2018…

“Hope Dies Last”

This is why I know he will always fight and never give up. It isn’t an option for him.

This match-up against Denis was one I described as “must win” for both and this early in the season is an issue but I felt it was bigger for Denis. Grigor seems to relax more against higher ranked opponents as he has struggled against those outside the top 60.

To the match and theme was set early on.

Denis Shapovalov played like someone who just didn’t have a plan, he was quite lost which was surprising to see as he was the man with a plan at the end of 2019 and in Sydney just over a month ago.

Grigor set out his stall and found his feet quite quickly. The serve out-wide followed by the forehand was a treat for the Bulgarian who never looked back once he got the break in the first set.

It was a similar story in the second set, Denis was a bit more settled. He did struggle on serve but rarely bothered Dimitrov at all.

Screenshot 2020-02-10 at 23.28.20

Dimitrov played a clever game but it was built on basics, Shapovalov didn’t know how to return the serve into the backhand and be effective. Dimitrov picked his spots well (yellow squares but the return was too short!

We can see where he returns it to and the depth is because of his positioning. Shapovalov takes the ball quite early so he is reacting off full speed from the serve which is difficult to do even with a two handed shot.

When I think of a one-handed backhand return I think of Thiem or to an extent Wawrinka. Thiem has the perfect stance a few metres back. He waits for the pace of the ball to slow down before sending it back and rarely sends a short return.

Thiem has shown in the last year or so his ability to change his return position as well. His ability to adapt to situations has improved a lot and we see Thiem even step up to return or drop back depending on what the opponent is doing. When returning serve you cannot be stubborn.

I think he could learn from Dominic Thiem’s returning position but Denis is in a bit of a rut at the moment. There were positives to take from his performance. He hit his flat backhand well in rallies but once again it is another loss.

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