Novak Djokovic’s ultra-aggressive approach when he is facing match points – he saved four of them in his quarter-final with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga by taking big swings of his racket – is influencing the next generation. Grigor Dimitrov, one of the most gifted young players on the tour, told The Tennis Space what he has learnt from watching Djokovic in Paris – you “mustn’t pull back at the big moments”.
Thanks to Djokovic, Dimitrov and his contemporaries could also be a generation of risk-takers – the Bulgarian has always been a player who likes to play some shots, and he sounded extremely encouraged by what he saw the other night at Roland Garros.
“To be a top player, you have to keep going for your shots on the big points, and that’s what Djokovic did. You can’t pull back at the big moments,” said Dimitrov, a former world junior number one, and one of the Longines Rising Tennis Stars, who was speaking at the launch of this week’s Longines Future Tennis Aces at Roland Garros. “Djokovic went for his shots, and that’s why he’s a top player. That’s what he always does at the big moments, and that’s what you need to do to be winning those sorts of matches. I think most people now recognise that Djokovic is not afraid to go for his shots.”
What Dimitrov couldn’t predict is who is going to win Djokovic’s semi-final against Roger Federer on Friday. “Anything could happen – the only thing you can be sure of is that there will be some amazing tennis,” he said. “It’s tough to say who’s going to win, as Novak played some great tennis when he was facing match points against Tsonga. And Federer? Well, Federer’s Federer.”
Here’s a two- or even three-bottle debate. Which of these three beaten quarter-finalists – Andy Murray, Tsonga and Juan Martin del Potro – is most likely to win a grand slam or the Olympics this season? Is it Murray, beaten by David Ferrer at Roland Garros, whose game is better suited to English grass courts and American cement than to the terracotta courts of Paris? Or Tsonga, who came within a point of the greatest win of his life against Djokovic in Paris, and who will be threat on the other side of the Channel and the other side of the Pond? Or Del Potro, who led Federer by two sets at Roland Garros, and who is the only one of these three to have already won a slam (the 2009 US Open)?
Perhaps the best way of judging the strength of one generation is by looking at who’s losing before semi-final day.
For the second time at the last three slams, Sam Stosur finds her own tennis overshadowed by an opponent’s crass remark. Last year’s US Open final is not remembered for the Australian winning her first grand slam title, but for what Serena Williams told the umpire: “You’re a hater and unattractive inside.” Here in Paris, Stosur is being followed around by the comment that Dominika Cibulkova made after their quarter-final, that Sam plays like a man. While Cibulkova was not trying to be rude or provocative – or at least you hope that she wasn’t – she certainly wasn’t being helpful.