• Djokovic, Dimitrov collide in French Open third round

    5/31/13 4:13 PM | Ricky Dimon
    Djokovic, Dimitrov collide in French Open third round A blockbuster showdown between Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov is set for Roland Garros on Saturday. A place in the second week of the season's second Grand Slam is at stake.

    Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov will be clashing for the fourth time in their careers and for the third time this season when they face each other again in the third round of the French Open on Saturday.

    Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 2-1, but Dimitrov won their only previous clay-court encounter 7-6(6), 6-7(8), 6-3 in a three-hour and two-minute marathon earlier this spring at the Madrid Masters. The Serb had scored a prior 6-3, 6-2 victory at the 2012 Shanghai event before taking care of Dimitrov 7-6(4), 6-1 almost three month ago in Indian Wells.

    Based on what happened in Madrid and also on Dimitrov' current level of play, this showdown will be massively hyped. The 22-year-old Bulgarian boasts a 19-11 record for the season, which also includes a runner-up finish to Andy Murray in Brisbane and a quarterfinal showing in Monte-Carlo. Dimitrov, who is through to the last 32 of a slam for the first time in his career after easing past Alejandro Falla and Lucas Pouille, registers at 28th in the world and looks poised to surpass his career-high mark of No. 26.

    Djokovic has not been entirely dominant in 2013, but he captured the Australian Open title and also ended Rafael Nadal's reign in Monte-Carlo. The world No. 1 is looking to bounce back from relatively premature losses in Madrid (to Dimitrov) and Rome (to Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals), and so far this fortnight he has dismissed both David Goffin and Guido Pella in straight sets.

    "It's a slam so it means much more to him and I expect him to be more focused and play his best," Dimitrov assured, referring back to the Madrid surprise. "At the same time, this is what I have been working for in the past both. I'm kind of pumped. Hopefully we can produce something good."

    The entertainment and shot-making in this one should be better than good, but Dimitrov is correct in implying that he will be facing a whole different beast than the one he saw earlier in May. A determined Djokovic should maintain momentum from a second-round blowout and avenge his loss to Dimitrov without surrendering a set.

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Grigor is not a five set warrior yet. He can trouble the beast a bit and that is all we can expect. No wonder we will see a Nole-Rafa semi and another grueling contest on the Parisian dirt.

newfangkc , 6/1/13 12:34 AM

I hope it's obvious to all now the difference between the Djoker in a Masters event like Madrid and in a GS like RG. It's clear that he was not all in for a Masters 1000. He has primed himself nicely for this title attempt in Paris. Baby Fed is still a way's away. Better luck in the future.

chr18 , 6/1/13 8:56 PM

^^So, are you saying he tanked in Madrid and Rome?

rafaisthebest , 6/1/13 9:15 PM


That's what I want to know. If that's what chr18 is saying, that's a pretty serious allegation to make against the #1 player in the world. If there were even close to the truth, this sport would be in big trouble. It's also interesting because in the past it's seemed very important to Nole to do well at the Masters tournaments in the clay court season.

The idea that the #1 player would even think of tanking at a Masters tournament is quite appalling. I find it interesting that chr18 is willing to cut Nole some slack for supposedly tanking matches in two Masters tournaments as long as he believe that it will help him beat Rafa at RG. Wow! Someone is desperate for Rafa to lose.

Nole's draw so far has been easy. The thinking was that Dimitrov might once again play the way he did at Madrid and give Nole a real match. But Dimitrov played like crap and anyone could have beaten him today. Winning easily and looking good against inferior opponents doesn't necessarily equal a win at RG. Just ask Fed!

Nativenewyorker , 6/1/13 9:31 PM

Nowhere in his post does chr18 assume that Nole tanked those matches in Madrid and Rome. The way I read this post is that Nole's priorities, after the ankle injury, where not the Masters events, but being ready for GS. That makes sense to me. And I believe he wasn't 100% into those events. Even at RG, he is taking care of his right ankle. He is not sliding as much but rather making a few steps more. Novak wouldn't play two tiebreaks and then lose the match on purpose. Neither he would do that in a match where he's up a set and 5:2, 30:30. That's just ridiculous. In Paris, he is mentally prepared better.

danica , 6/1/13 9:55 PM

As I've explained here before, there is a difference between tanking and not being willing to die on court for a meager Masters 1000. At AO'12 the Djoker was willing to die on court to defend that title. The trouble with Nadal is he has one intensity which is all out all the time. That is why he needs frequent breaks because he burns out after a while. I've seen the way Fed treated the Masters events after 2006. He's been either or with them. He won't fight hard to win a Masters 1000 only a GS. He doesn't need them any longer except for the ranking points. The Djoker has learned too that the glory comes from winning GS events.

chr18 , 6/1/13 10:17 PM

chr18, please stay on topic. Why is it necessary for you to bring Nadal into an explanation of what you mean by Novak was not all in at a Masters event? What has Rafa got to do with Novak's priorities?

Leave Rafa out of this, we can talk about his priorities later if you wish.

So, these are your words, " He won't fight hard to win a Masters 1000 only a GS. He doesn't need them any longer except for the ranking points."

So, according to you, when Novak was serving for the match, up 5-1 (was it 5-2, I cannot quite recal but he had a sizeable lead) in Rome, he decided not to fight hard. He decided it was not important to win the match at that point. Hr decided winning that match raised the possibility of winning a Masters shield which he had no care for. So, he just let Berdych win. He had better things to do.

Which begs the question, why bother showing up at Masters events at all? Oh , sorry, you said he will turn up for ranking points only, no matter how meagre.......

Please chr18, is my understanding correct?

Thank you.

rafaisthebest , 6/1/13 10:34 PM

Definition of tanking according to the Urban dictionary,

"Tanking is the act of giving up a match or "throwing it away", losing intentionally or not competing."

Damned if not competing is not the same as not fighting hard to win................

rafaisthebest , 6/1/13 10:56 PM

There is a motive for Nole easing off the pedal vs Dimi (not saying he did).

He already had his clay win over Rafa at MC so why give Rafa the chance to even things up? Had Rafa lost prior to their potential meeting then Nole could continue to compete.

He could have played Dimi to the point that he was satisfied he would win and then eased up.

It's possible and I wouldn't hold it against him if he did.

I don't believe that is what happened but the turnaround was truly bizarre.


Conspirator , 6/1/13 11:32 PM

He already had his clay win over Rafa at MC so why give Rafa the chance to even things up? Had Rafa lost prior to their potential meeting then Nole could continue to compete.
Conspirator , 6/1/13 11:32 PM

So who is obsessed with who then? This sounds to me you are saying Novak thinks of Rafa and the implications on Rafa of any of his matches! Sorry, but this sounds clinically obsessive, even dangerous....

On the other hand, you have Rafa just apparently going through each tournament, one match at a time, one day at a time, one win at a time, seemingly not concerned about a potential meeting with Novak, otherwise wouldn't he also be employing similar machiavellian plots to hood-wink Novak?

So, to paraphrase chr18, Rafa is the full intensity, no goals type and Novak is the strategic, pick your battles type who does not bother with Masters 1000. And you say he strategically lost so he would not give Rafa the chance to even things out!

Look, not saying you are wrong, just gob-smacked if your theory is correct......

I'll tell you what, all things considered, give me Rafa's approach to the game and life any day. Simple, easy approaches........I like!

rafaisthebest , 6/1/13 11:52 PM

No I'm just saying that it is a possibility.

Yes, I prefer Rafa's simplicity.

Nole has stated that the FO is his No. 1 priority and Rafa has to be part of that strategy because Rafa IS the French Open.


Conspirator , 6/2/13 12:00 AM

chr18, please stay on topic. rafaisthebest, 6/1/13 10:34 PM

With the lack of moderation it's too easy to take advantage so I won't. The statement of mine you quoted was referring to Fed since 2006. I think the Djoker is learning from Fed that's all. Oh and for the first time Sheila is correct in her postulation.

chr18 , 6/2/13 12:30 AM

chr18 the self confessed racist homophobe.


Conspirator , 6/2/13 1:23 AM

If a player isn't all in for a Masters tournament, then what's the point? Nole has a huge lead in points now. So why wait until he had the match against Berdy in Rome? That makes no sense so say that he didn't give it his all because he was too preoccupied with RG. So he just let Berdy take the match away from and make him play another set? Honestly, that's just illogical and makes no sense.

I have said that I do not believe that the top players ever tank matches. As far as what chr18 is saying, I simply think it's not reasonable. I think in the match with Dimitrov at Madrid there were ongoing issues with the crowd. I think they got under Nole's skin, especially after he took that timeout. You don't often see Nole calling out profanity to the crowd in matches. They rattled him and at least in that match, Dimitrov kept his cool.

chr18, 6/1/13 10:17 PM

I remember going round the mulberry bush with you about this a few times. It's not a choice between killing yourself or losing a match! You don't seem to grasp this simple logical concept. The example of the Rome match with Berdy indicates that Nole didn't have to kill himself. He just had to serve one game and hold to win the match. If he didn't want to kill himself, then why would he let Berdy just take over and not only win the second set, but take him to a third set? He had his chance to end the match in straight sets, a nice easy win. The fact is that he did want to win the match but Berdy started playing at a higher level and Nole was not able to match it.

You are once again comparing Fed and Rafa. They are at different points in their careers. The fact is that Rafa doesn't just have one intensity level or one gear. We have seen him win matches without playing well due to his ability to raise his level of play on crucial points.

It's a risky strategy to decide to not take Masters tournaments seriously. Then you lose to players who would not beat you. You never want to lose your aura of invincibility.

Nativenewyorker , 6/2/13 1:41 AM

Anybody who believes there is no such a thing as strategic losses, retirements or withdrawals should try correlating the Paris Masters' results and the Race to London rankings. Starting with 2012 and Nole's 'shock' defeat in the 2nd round.

Chris18 is correct. It is widely accepted that for some years Roger has targetted the Majors at the expense of the Masters. This undoubtedly has helped contribute to his longevity and ability to still rack up Slam titles and it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Nole camp are taking a leaf from Roger's book.

ed251137 , 6/2/13 2:03 AM

Sorry but in the examples cited for the purpose of this discussion i.e. Madrid and Rome, there is no way that Nole strategically lost those matches. You just don't decide to lose when you are a game away from winning. What is strategic about Nole deciding to be pushed to three sets when he could have ended the match in two?

I also do not believe that Nole is at a point in his career where he would need to employ Fed's strategy of targeting slams. Fed's been doing this for maybe the last few years. He has cut back on his schedule, building in more rest periods. Nole isn't at that point in his career. He should want to win as much as possible, slams, Masters, WTF.

Also I might point out that Rafa seems to be doing some targeting of his own. Hence the withdrawal from Miami before the clay court season. Rafa will most likely try to build in some periods of rest for his knees where possible.

As I said and will continue to say, I do not believe that the top players tank matches. Talking about strategic losses is simply conjecture and opinion, not fact. We can only surmise as to why players do what they do. It's not like we are part of their inner circle.

Withdrawals are one thing. Playing in a match to lose is quite another.

Nativenewyorker , 6/2/13 2:24 AM

Like I said before, if the Djoker wins RG then the losses he had earlier will all be forgotten and the extra rest will likely have helped him. If he does not win RG well that's another story.

chr18 , 6/2/13 3:00 AM

chr20 (the self confessed homophobe racist) no longer talks about Federer, only Nole, his new love.


Conspirator , 6/2/13 3:07 AM

The faul btches only watch tennis or nadal for his ass and there fingertrigger excersizes.
seventeen, 6/1/13 11:24 PM

According to the homophobe liar, crap20, this is perfectly fine language. Wonder what names you call your wife and kids, being a red neck homophobe. Are you a skinhead? Oh what am I saying, if course you are.

jean , 6/2/13 4:46 AM

Great to see Novak taking a leaf out of the two best players of the last 2 decades. Sampras had honed this "GS and No.1" is all that matters technique to perfection. Even with 0 masters on Grass, Sampras would have won more than the 11 masters he had, if he thought those were the titles that mattered.

Ivan lendl has 22 masters to Sampras' 11, but most tennis experts give more weightage to Sampras' 14 slams, 286 weeks at no.1.

No-1-le and his camp are on the right track if they choose to focus on slams and not the puny 1000s. It is the domain of the runner-ups - lendl, agassi, nadal. The best of their generation like borg, sampras, federer choose to focus on slams/no.1 weeks/years instead.


Do not be put off by these rafatards' whining over your support for nole. No-1-le fans appreciate your good words. He has chosen a great guy to emulate, if what you say is true.

Danica @ 6/1 and 955pm:

Agree with you. There are priorities in life. There is a reason why players like youzhny can win practice matches against federer, but to date have won 0 matches at the pro-level. You have to bring it where it matters the most and as I mentioned Nole's doing the smart thing by focussing on slams and no.1

Ajde No-1-le!

novakisthebest , 6/2/13 5:58 AM

Rafa's place in history is already assured. No matter what kind of hating and trash talk is directed at him, the records are there for all to see. This attempt to constantly demean him and his place in tennis history just shows the blatant bias and prejudice of a few misfits who can't accept the truth. So they try desperately to rewrite history and think if they keep distorting reality then it will somehow change reality.

That's not gonna happen!

chr18, 6/2/13 3:00 AM,

You and ed made some good points, but I still am sticking with my take on what is going on with Nole. As far as your assertion that if Nole wins RG then your theory will be proven, I don't think it applies. There are many variables when playing a slam. There are things that you can't always prepare for in advance. I just don't see Nole taking losses in order to have a shot at winning RG.

Nativenewyorker , 6/2/13 7:52 AM

Like I said before, if the Djoker wins RG then the losses he had earlier will all be forgotten and the extra rest will likely have helped him. If he does not win RG well that's another story.

chr18 , 6/2/13 3:00 AM

Sorry, I am not buying your arguments here. It seems to me you are trying to find an excuse for whatever transpires! If Novak wins RG, oh what a smart boy he was for conserving his energy. If he loses, well, this was foretold in Madrid and Rome.

As I said, I believe tennis to be a very simple game, you go on court, hit a yellow fuzzy ball and try to keep it within the tramlines for a point. If you do that consistently, you win. If you do not, you lose. I believe this is Rafa's approach to the game.

Now you and @Conspirator are saying Novak's approach is more "sophisticated", more strategic, more risky. Yes, more risky because it is the equivalent of putting one's eggs in one basket, Novak could win it all or lose it all! Wait a minute, isn't that the same strategy applied by Gulbis, Brands, Soderling, Rosol, Klizan and lately Fognini in their approaches to playing Rafa? We know it worked for Soderling and Rosol, that's what 2 hit the jackpot, 4 didn't? And you are saying Novak is employing this strategy on a season? Wow! As I said, I am gob-smacked.

If your theory is correct, it just shows how desperate Novak is to win his first RG. Good luck to him!

rafaisthebest , 6/2/13 8:19 AM

ritb: Of course there are legimate reasons why a top player can suffer a surprise loss at a Masters tournament. But in the case of Paris Bercy the incidence of lower ranked players scoring their one and only win over a top 10 player IMO goes beyond mere coincidence. Ditto withdrawals and retirements which have been a standing joke in recent years.

With the WTF looming I dont buy the idea that all players are prepared to leave their guts on the courts when they play at Bercy.

ed251137 , 6/2/13 12:22 PM

ed251137 , 6/2/13 12:22 PM

Towards the end of the season is a different matter, and players do not play cat and mouse. They come out openly and admit their fatigue or if a tournament is not a priority for them. Agree with you, Paris and WTF suffer in this respect.

In the case of Madrid and Rome however, I never once heard Novak say they were not a priority, quite the contrary. In fact we heard a discussion on these boards after Madrid, after the Rome draw came out, where I suggested that Novak might not want to play Rafa in Rome because the last thing he would want is to get beaten just before RG as this would cede the MC momentum in the 2013 clay H2H to Rafa. Posters, including some Nole fans, came out and said in their opinion Novak would want to play Rafa in Rome to consolidate his MC victory. So, excuse when I am a little baffled that now the song is no, Novak never wanted to play Rome in the first place!

After the Madrid debacle, Novak came out categorically and said he wanted to do well in Rome. He even said this after his ouster by Berdy. Okay, call me naive for not "seeing" the Novak double-speak.......

You see, I do not see any shame in a player suffering a surprise loss in any tournament, and Novak's losses in Madrid and Rome were surprise losses. That is the nature of the game, you win some and you lose some. It also would not be a surprise to see Novak go on and lift the RG trophy, in spite of those 2 shock Madrid and Rome losses. He is not the best player on the planet for nothing.

It is this attempt to elevate him to some mythical person who "does not lose", who only loses because he wants to, because he has some clever strategy up his sleeve! This is not necessarry.

We get that Novak is special. We get that he can beat Rafa on clay, We get that he can beat Rafa in the up-coming semi should they meet there. Whether he will of course is another matter.

The point I am making is: there is no need to "spin" Novak. He is human, subject to lows (being genuinely bundled out of tournaments by lower ranked players) and highs (beating the best clay courter in history on his best surface).

And that he is scything through the RG field so far is no surprise to me. What was surprising to me is how some people actually thought Dimitrov was going to trouble Novak!

rafaisthebest , 6/2/13 12:53 PM

ritb: I was only labouring the point about Paris and WTF to highlight that sometimes a loss is not always what it seems in response to the several comments claiming that it never happens.

ed251137 , 6/2/13 1:31 PM

Current ATP-rankings

1. Djokovic 12 500 pts
2. Murray 8 750 pts
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