There are performances that just stick in the mind, despite beating Roger Federer in a thrilling match at Flushing Meadows weeks before the performance of the season from Grigor Dimitrov came at the home of Cirque du Soleil in Paris last November.
On route to the quarter finals at the Paris Masters he executed a masterful performance against Dominic Thiem and from the beginning the intent was there from the Bulgarian.
The theme of the match was set immediately.
Second point in and Dimitrov is central, full rotation in the forehand to smash it down to the baseline.
No anticipation from Thiem, the sliced backhand on the run is usually the last resort to keep the rally going. You can see in the first picture he’s expecting Dimitrov to pull the forehand back across him but targeting the backhand was to be a theme and in an ideal world Dominic Thiem would rather be a metre or so more to the left.
Thiem got to it but the extension of the rally just set Dimitrov up for that inside-out forehand…
He absolutely pummels the forehand and leaves that backhand down the line open for Thiem but the pace he generates is too much for Thiem to redirect his backhand to be in.
It was perfect execution.
I could sit here and go on and on. He served well, he return with belief and bravery, he asked questions and continued in that mindset of “put the ball past me” and Thiem couldn’t.
He began to second guess Dimitrov and that doesn’t help. At 4-2 and game point Dimitrov lined up a backhand and Thiem changed his direction and got passed on it.
Dimitrov completely targeted the backhand of corner of Thiem. It was backhand v backhand. He sent a good mixture of top-spin and sliced backhands into that corner and said to Thiem “what have you got?” Can you beat me down the line? Can you go cross court and close the net and the answer was no.
The theme continued.
Once again Dimitrov pulled out into that forehand position on serve and pummelled it away. Thiem’s returns were deep but were not penetrating and what made it worse then for him was he retreated behind the Paris sign and more central.
Remember the first image? Thiem is inside the sign and to the right in front of the S. Moving back a little bit further is fine but if your return is doing the exact same then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage!
Remember that first image of Thiem scrambling? Well… this is more of a scramble. The return is the same, the forehand from Dimitrov is the same and the positioning of Thiem is deeper. He was trying to give himself a better chance but gave himself more to do.
It was a performance and a half from Dimitrov, he strolled around the court, it was playstation tennis.
This 1-1 game could have been a major turning point. Thiem turned it up but the level of Dimitrov just didn’t drop and this backhand winner down the line was astonishing and his brilliance was the difference.
I started off this piece by saying there was a theme, early strikes and progressive tennis and it carried on from the first game to the last…
Once again, big forehand onto the baseline. Look how close it was!! He follows in to kill the point, he doesn’t admire his shot he works on the next phase.
6-3 6-2, one of the best performances in 2019.
A lot happened for Dimitrov in 2019, his ranking dropped but he picked it up again greatly. His win against Federer in New York was epic but this for me was on another level!