Wow, it didn’t take long for Madrid to heat up, did it? On a hot day in the nation’s capitol, we were treated to one of the matches of the season so far, with young world number 28, Grigor Dimitrov’s, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 win over world number one Novak Djokovic. This was a gem of a three setter that crammed in everything a tennis fan could want – flashy shotmaking, grueling rallies, roller coaster momentum, missed chances, comebacks, cramps and chants. There was even some blood and tears, to go along with all the sweat.
1. Nole’s got to protect that ankle, along with his ego. Hopefully he’ll use this early loss as a blessing in disguise and let the body and mind recuperate for Rome, where he’s loved.
2. As much as I love a good partisan crowd, I felt for Nole here. Like all of us, he loves being loved, and has struggled with moments of public peevishness (remember US Open 2008?) when he’s feel like the crowd hasn’t given him his due. But since making it to world number one, he’s been nothing but charming, professional, and dare we say statesmanlike. Just look at his recent Davis Cup effort in Boise, and how he followed that up by breaking Nadal’s historic title streak in Monte Carlo. He’s proven beyond a doubt that he adores the game and his place in it. So even I, a nascent Dimitrov fan, was a bit jarred to hear the Madrid crowd chanting Di-mi-trov! Di-mi-trov! and cheering Nole’s service errors. If Grigor was Spanish, I’d understand, but honestly, all I can think is that the Madrid crowd did not appreciate Nole’s performance in Monte Carlo as much as I did. Of course, it was Rafa who said after needing three sets to get past him in the quarterfinals: “Now he’s the present and the future.” We’ll see how the crowd reacts should Di-mi-trov happen to meet Nadal this week.
3. Even more than his flashy backhand and sweet shot making ability, I was impressed with Dimitrov’s serve in this match. He used it to get himself out of trouble, acing the best returner in the world at key moments, like when he was down set points. Big moment serving is what wins you big matches and big tournaments. (Baby Federer, indeed.)
4. Grigor played through adversity, both mental and physical in this match. He didn’t let missed opportunities – both early and late in the match – bother him. He fought off Djokovic in the first set tiebreaker and wasn’t overly distracted by Nole’s injury issues or his own cramping in the second. Surprisingly, it was Nole who seemed to wilt after the second set, This match proved that his mental game is strong and hopefully gave him the motivation to continue working on the physical side, which still needs improvement. Good thing for him that the physical is easier to master than the mental, and the mental side should strengthen along with his muscles.
5. Tears. Tears are good. Especially when you win. (Right, Roger?)
6. As much as we all have our favorites in the Big 4, I think this win, and the excitement around it, show that the tennis world is desperate for a Next Big Thing. It has to happen sometime, right? Is this the present. Or the future?
Oh – and of course it was nice seeing Roger win easily over Stepanek and Serena maintain some structure to the crazy women’s draw. Did you all catch this slightly embarrassing story re: Stephens vs. Serena? I’m glad it’s all worked out. As Sloane no doubt typed on her smart phone: “#lifelessons”. Sigh, kids these days, right Grigor?