Things learned from Fed's return
Former world No.3 steadies to claim a confidence-boosting five-set win over Serb veteran.
Andre Agassi has a knack for choosing his moment – the impeccable timing of his playing days now extends beyond the court to his role advising Grigor Dimitrov.
Any words of wisdom from the American great following his charge’s scrappy five-set triumph over Janko Tipsarevic on Sunday would likely be kept to a minimum.
In a season in which Dimitrov – a former world No.3 – is desperate to salvage form and confidence, the 6-3, 6-0, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-4 scoreline in the opening round at Roland-Garros matters little.
This was about getting the job done, a rare feat after three straight first-round losses leading in, in a season which has reaped a meagre nine main draw wins.
From two sets and a break up before a rowdy Court 1 crowd, Dimitrov ended up in a drawn-out affair – at one stage teetering just six points from defeat – to deny the irrepressible Tipsarevic.
In 1st 5-set match at this year's @rolandgarros, @GrigorDimitrov d. #Tipsarevic 63 60 36 67(4) 64 to improve his career record to 8-8 #RolandGarros. #Dimitrov converted 9 of 17 break pts and saved 5 of 10 BPs. He will next face #Cilic, who owns a 4-1 H2H advantage (all on hard).— ATP Media Info (@ATPMediaInfo) May 26, 2019
“A win is a win. Obviously I was a couple of sets up, up a break. I didn't know exactly how he was feeling, and clearly I think that disrupted me a little bit,” Dimitrov said.
“This is what I have waited for, to win matches like that. In the past months, all those matches have gone the other way around for me. And I just felt that this time, really, at the important moment I really stepped up.”
It was the second straight major the pair had squared off in the opening round after Dimitrov prevailed in four sets at the Australian Open in January, just his second win in six meetings between the two.
But that match was Tipsarevic’s first since the 2017 US Open and came after seven lower-body surgeries – two for a benign tumor on his left foot, two on his right knee, two on his left hamstring and one on his right hamstring.
“I wasn’t feeling the joy of life. I was sad. I was completely flat, which is the opposite of my personality.”— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) April 11, 2019
Janko Tipsarevic explains how his physical injuries affected his mental health.
Listen - https://t.co/2Wf8Ust1X6
iTunes - https://t.co/GcVQKR1wbR pic.twitter.com/8c0LfOFmeM
Dimitrov, too, was not without his injury concerns. A shoulder complaint, which ruled him out of Indian Wells, had contributed to his struggles and was never far from mind as the match wore on.
Earlier this month, with his ranking on the brink of falling outside the top 50, Dimitrov made the tough decision to part ways with his coach of three years, Dani Vallverdu.
He hired former player, Radek Stepanek, in his place to combine with Agassi’s intermittent consultation.
“I kind of find him very intriguing in a sense with the game that he had,” Dimitrov said of Stepanek.
“In a way, he's achieved so much and has done so well, [he’s] very creative. And I think this is what I need right now, especially that I haven't played many matches.
“[Andre] and Radek are getting along so well. So that's a great package deal that we all can be on the same page.”
Agassi knows, once injury-free, simplicity is key for Dimitrov.
Bombarding the gifted 28-year-old with a barrage of suggestions after each premature defeat would only compound his mental struggles.
“It's always when you least expect it … you kind of expect him to say something and he doesn't,” Dimitrov said.
“So it's always like he's capable of playing that mind game with you at times that really makes it so interesting and it makes you think.
“He always goes, ‘I have two thoughts, the first and the second’. So every time he says that, it stays with me for two, three days, and I keep on asking myself that question.
“Every single day I'm finding something new, which I'm forever grateful for that, of course.
“And when we get out there on the court it is really tennis time.”
Dimitrov next faces No.11 seed Marin Cilic for a place in the last 32.