Polasek/Dodig Capture First Masters 1000 Title Together In Cincinnati
This was only their fourth tournament as a team
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah have clearly been the best doubles team on the ATP Tour this season. But Sunday was Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek’s day.
In just their fourth event as a team, Dodig and Polasek captured their first title together, defeating top seeds Cabal and Farah 4-6, 6-4, 10-6 to win the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Fourteen months ago, Polasek had no ATP Doubles Ranking at all, as he had not played a professional tennis match since November 2013. The Slovak was forced to retire due to injury. But the Slovakian-Croatian duo has quickly clicked this year, defeating the Top 2 seeds at this ATP Masters 1000 tournament as well as legends Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan en route to the trophy.
“To see a full stadium today was amazing for both of us, for both teams,” Dodig said. “We had a great fight on the court and we really [played] great tennis today.”
This was Polasek’s 28th tour-level final, but his first at a Masters 1000 event. Dodig takes home his fifth crown at this level, with his four previous victories coming with Marcelo Melo, including in Cincinnati in 2016.
“They played a great match. They’ve been playing good for already a couple months and Polasek was out for a while,” Farah said. “To come back the way you’ve been coming back, it’s seriously very impressive, so congrats for that.”
Dodig and Polasek will incredibly climb to 12th in the ATP Doubles Race To London, surging in pursuit of a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 from 10-17 November. Cabal and Farah became the first pair to qualify for the eight-team field earlier this week.
There was not much to differentiate the two teams in what was a high-level final. Neither team overpowered the other, and both had their moments at the net, showing quick reactions.
But after winning two more points than the Colombians in the first set and still losing it, Dodig and Polasek finally got their break at the very end of the second set. Cabal struck his team’s first double fault of the match long on set point, setting up a Match Tie-break.
Strong returning out of the gate gave Dodig and Polasek an early lead, which they never relinquished. Cabal double faulted in the ad court again as he tried to reel his team back into it, but it was not enough, as the Croatian-Slovakian team earned 1,000 ATP Doubles Ranking points each. They will split $331,300.
Cabal and Farah fell just short of lifting their fifth trophy of the year and second at a Masters 1000 event in 2019. However, the Colombians still leave Cincinnati with 600 points apiece and a share of $161,680.
Cincinnati Showdown: Medvedev & Goffin Battle For First Masters 1000 Title
Russian and Belgian have split their two previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings
Few predicted a Western & Southern Open final between Russian Daniil Medvedev and Belgian David Goffin. But that matters little to the players, who each has a tremendous opportunity on Sunday to lift their first ATP Masters 1000 trophy in Cincinnati.
Entering the semi-finals, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic appeared en route to claiming his 34th title at this level. But Medvedev upset the Serbian for the second time this year to set a rematch of a five-set thriller he lost against Goffin at Wimbledon last month.
“I try to take every match, no matter who I’m playing, the same,” Medvedev said. “I don’t feel any extra pressure or [take] any extra confidence that I’m playing Goffin and not, for example, Rafa. But probably in percentage changes, yes, I have a better chance to win against David than against Rafa, but it does not mean that I cannot lose.”
This time a week ago, the Russian was preparing for his first Masters 1000 final at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal. Medvedev mustered only three games against Rafael Nadal, who triumphed in 70 minutes.
But instead of getting deflated this week, Medvedev has shown no drop-off at all. Instead, he is into his third ATP Tour final in as many weeks (Washington, Montreal, Cincinnati), becoming the first player to accomplish the feat since Alexander Zverev last year (Munich, Madrid, Rome).
“I think I will need to play aggressively, especially remembering my match in Wimbledon against David. I felt that I couldn’t keep up with his consistency when he’s in great shape,” Medvedev said. “At one moment I stepped up my game kind of like today with aggression and I almost won the match, though I lost it, and I think I’m going to have to be aggressive tomorrow.”
Medvedev speaks of their three-hour, 31-minute battle at SW19 just last month. The 23-year-old was up a break at 4-1 in the decider. But the former World No. 7 stormed back for the victory, eventually reaching the quarter-finals.
“It was an amazing feeling. But I felt that I was a little bit, I think, the better player during the whole match,” Goffin said at the time. “If you see all the rallies and how I felt during the match, I was feeling good and during the rallies I was a little bit more aggressive. But you never know with a player like Daniil, who sometimes is aggressive in just a few points, and then he serves, and then a few aces [and it] could be 4-1 like in the fifth. But I felt like I had the game and the shots to come back. Physically I was feeling great, as well. So I had the energy to fight, to come back.”
It will be interesting to see how big Medvedev goes on his second serves against Goffin. That proved a deciding factor against Djokovic, and the Russian said he did the same thing against the Belgian at Wimbledon, too.
Earlier in the year, at the Australian Open, Medvedev defeated Goffin in straight sets. So entering Sunday, their FedEx ATP Head2Head series is knotted at 1-1. Medvedev has shown tremendous form on hard courts in 2019, with his Djokovic win marking his 30th on the surface this year, which is 10 more than anyone else on the ATP Tour.
Goffin has shown plenty of prowess on hard courts, too, earning the best result of his career at The O2 in London two years ago, when he advanced to the championship match of the Nitto ATP Finals. The 28-year-old is the first Belgian to reach a Masters 1000 final, and he can jump into eighth place in the ATP Race To London if he wins his first crown since 2017 Tokyo and fifth ATP Tour title overall.
“I’m just focussed on what I have to do step by step. I’ll try to do my best. I try to win every match, and then we see at the end,” Goffin said. “To reach the first Masters 1000 [final] for a Belgian, of course for such a small country it’s really nice.”
Exclusive: Goffin Prepares To Go For ‘The Big One’
Belgian strikes a blow for the ‘small guys’ of the ATP Tour
Some Davids have one Goliath to face. Others have many.
In an age when confronting big-hitting players 6’ 4” and above is commonplace, David Goffin is accustomed to going into battle against better-armed opponents. Standing just 180cm (5’ 11”) and weighing 70kg, the 28-year-old Belgian faces the constant challenge of turning players’ power back on them and leveraging the more subtle advantages his compact frame affords.
“It’s tough, but we still have some spots [in pro tennis] for small guys,” Goffin tells ATPTour.com. “When you’re young you might not be ready to deal with the frustration of playing the big guys and dealing with their power. But we move better, we see the ball earlier, we can play faster. That’s why you see smaller guys able to compete. We use the power of our opponent.”
That game plan will be stress tested Sunday when he tackles 6’ 6” World No. 8 Daniil Medvedev in the title match of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Goffin’s first ATP Masters 1000 final. The Russian showed what he could do with his height and power on Saturday when he outgunned World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Earlier in the day Goffin took out veteran Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
The success of Goffin’s ability to step inside the court and take time away from Medvedev by rebounding his opponent’s pace is likely to be one of the key determinants of the match.
As coach Tomas Johansson says, “Players like David are not going to overpower the big guys, but he can beat them by playing quickly and playing smartly. That’s what we try to achieve now. He also probably has the quickest legs on the Tour. So when you don’t have the height you have to compensate in some way. For David, it’s with his court coverage and playing quickly, playing fast.”
You May Also Like: Goffin’s Quest For Confidence
Fans who saw Goffin take out Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer during his run to the final of the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals – and to a career-high year-end No. 7 finish that season – expected to see the Monte-Carlo resident entrench himself at the top of the men’s game in 2018. But he finished last year outside the Top 20 after a right elbow injury devastated his post-US Open campaign. Earlier in the season he suffered a freak accident in Rotterdam that forced his retirement in the semi-finals against Grigor Dimitrov: A ball ricocheted off his racquet and into his left eye.
Looking for a spark after the Australian Open following a straight-sets third-round exit – to none other than Medvedev – Goffin parted ways with Thierry van Cleemput and teamed full-time with Thomas Johansson, whom was part of the coaching team in 2016.
Down on confidence, the 28-year-old found himself at No. 33 as recently as 10 June this year, his lowest mark since 2014. His turnaround began at Roland Garros, where he took a set from 12-time champion Rafael Nadal.
“It’s probably the toughest challenge you can have on tour to play Rafa at Roland Garros. Philippe Chatrier is probably his best court. I played well, played a really good set in the third. He was too strong in the end but that gave me a lot of confidence to continue on grass.”
And continue on he did.
After a quarter-final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (l. Mannarino), he charged to the Halle final (l. Federer) and the quarter-finals of Wimbledon (l. Djokovic). It took the eventual champion at all three events to stop him.
Now the Belgian finds himself in his first ATP Masters 1000 final, in Cincinnati, where last year he also impressed, beating World No. 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round, No. 6 Kevin Anderson in the fourth round and No. 3 Juan Martin del Potro in the quarters. But he retired with an elbow injury against Roger Federer in the semis and played just three more tournaments that year.
“There have been some tough moments. I was down on confidence after a tough injury last year and I changed coach early this year. But I’ve continued to fight and at the end of the grass season I felt I was back playing my best tennis. I’m back in the Top 20 so I’m really enjoying this moment.”
Should he win Sunday’s final, Goffin will rocket to eighth place in the ATP Race To London and into contention to qualify for the eight-man Nitto ATP Finals in London from 10-17 November.
But his immediate focus is on winning the biggest title of his career. For a man with 256 match wins and who was once a mainstay in the world’s Top 15, four trophies from 12 finals doesn’t do full justice to his talents.
“It is what it is. I’ve won four titles and been in a lot of finals,” Goffin says. “I have no regrets. I always try to play the bigger tournaments. If I want more titles I could change my schedule and play more 250s, but I prefer to play the bigger tournaments and go for the big one. Four titles isn’t bad and I still have time to get more.”
It’s not just bigger opponents who provide an obstacle to smaller players like Goffin, Alex de Minaur, Yoshihito Nishioka, Gilles Simon, Diego Schwartzman and others. An even more formidable force is at play: math. The majority of matches hinge on the outcome of points between one and four shots. And that’s not where the small guys have an edge. For Goffin, however, that presents an opportunity to find improvement.
Listen To ATP Radio’s Interview With Johansson:
“We prefer to have some rallies and make the opponents run a lot. But I’m working on my serve. That’s a really important weapon in modern tennis. To play shorter points, to get free points is key. Big guys are playing two, three strokes and then it’s over.”
Johansson thinks that coming forward may also be a way to win the shorter points. “We are working a lot on trying to get him to be more aggressive. If I could wish for something… I would want him to go to the net a lot more than he normally does because when he plays his best tennis he puts a lot of pressure on his opponent. But he also has to follow up, and around the net is still an area that he doesn’t feel 100 per cent comfortable and that is the thing that we’re always working on and trying to improve.”
Djokovic: Medvedev Is One Of The Best Players In The World
Serbian reflects on semi-final defeat to Daniil Medvedev in Cincinnati
Even the World No. 1 has matches where he tips his hat and says ‘too good’.
In Saturday’s semi-final encounter against Daniil Medvedev, that’s exactly what happened for Novak Djokovic at the Western & Southern Open. Following a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 defeat to the Russian, the top seed acknowledged that Medvedev proved to be untouchable as the match progressed.
Djokovic was at his ruthless best in the first set, but his opponent varied his tactics as proceedings moved to the second and third. The most glaring change: a monster second serve that left the Serbian without any answers.
“I thought I played really good match,” said Djokovic. “Maybe in the third set when I was broken at 1-all I could have done a little bit better, but when someone serves a 128 miles-per-hour second serve and doesn’t make too many doubles faults and goes for every shot, you just have to put your hat down and congratulate him.
“He played amazing tennis from 4-3 in the second set. Not much that I could really do. I tried to return his serve. And when I had my racquet on the ball I was returning his serves, but you can’t really predict someone or prepare yourself for someone serving that big a second serve consistently. He definitely has a lot of confidence. When you have so much confidence, then obviously you allow yourself to go for these kind of shots. I congratulate him. He deserved to win the match.”
Djokovic heaped praise on Medvedev following the match, admitting the Russian has greatly improved his game since their first meeting of the year at the Australian Open. Since then, Medvedev has triumphed on two occasions, having also prevailed at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
On Saturday, it was the mid-match adjustment that made the difference for Medvedev. Djokovic knows very well that problem solving is a key component to maturity on the court and developing a successful game. He believes the 23-year-old has made great strides to those ends.”
“He’s working his way to Top 5 [in the ATP Ranking]. He’s definitely one of the best players in the world… He certainly improved since Australian Open this year. His forehand is better. His movement is better. I mean, his serve was always big. I did not experience this too many times in my career that someone goes so big on second serves and just serves two first serves basically for an extended period of time.
“That’s one of those things where you just take your chances. I don’t think I can kind of say that he improved his second serve. He was serving two first serves from one point of the match til the end of the match. But before that, when I could take my chance on the second serve, I was doing pretty well. But there is certainly an evolution in his game and improvement. He’s going in the right direction and it’s why he’s doing so well.”
Djokovic will next appear at the US Open, where is bidding for a 17th Grand Slam title. The three-time champion enters Flushing Meadows with just four matches played during the North American hard-court swing, but he believes there is no cause for concern.
Just one month removed from lifting the Wimbledon trophy, Djokovic is in top form and remains one of the favourites to lift the trophy in New York.
“I see mostly positives really in my game. Today I did lose a tennis match, but I didn’t do too much wrong. I lost to a player that was playing amazing, so I’ll take that and I’ll move forward to New York and have a good practice week.
“Then, of course, get myself ready for the Open. I love playing in those conditions there on centre court. I’m going to fight for a title as everyone else does, and I like my chances. I feel good and I look forward to it.”
After Five-Year Layoff, Polasek Partners Dodig Into Cincinnati Final
Top seeds Cabal/Farah await in the championship match
Fourteen months ago, Filip Polasek had not played a professional match in nearly five years. Now the Slovak is into his first ATP Masters 1000 final. Polasek and his partner, Croat Ivan Dodig, defeated Brits Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski 6-1, 6-4 on Saturday to reach the Western & Southern Open’s championship match.
Dodig and Polasek broke serve four times from 13 opportunities, and they saved two of the three break points to reach their second ATP Tour final of the year as a pair (also Antalya). On Sunday, they will face top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, who earlier in the week became the first team to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.
This is just the fourth tournament that Dodig and Polasek have played in as a team. But they have won three of their four matches in straight sets, including a second-round upset of Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan. The unseeded duo battled past second seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo in the quarter-finals.
Against Murray and Skupski, they set the tone of the match by earning nine break points in the first set, and dropping just two of their own service points in the opener. They struck six aces en route to their 66-minute victory.
Dodig is pursuing his fifth trophy at this level, with his four previous triumphs coming with Marcelo Melo, including in Cincinnati in 2016. This is Polasek’s 28th ATP Tour final, and he will try to claim his maiden Masters 1000 crown.
Cabal and Farah lost the same number of games in dismissing sixth seeds Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares 6-3, 6-2 after 57 minutes. The top seeds, did not face a break point, winning 84 per cent of their service points compared to 61 per cent for the Croatian-Brazilian duo.
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Both of the teams in the final put together tremendous performances at Wimbledon. Cabal and Farah lifted their first Grand Slam trophy, while Dodig and Polasek advanced to the semi-finals in just their second tournament as a team.
Cabal and Farah most recently played Dodig at the 2018 US Open, defeating the Croat and Spaniard Marcel Granollers, while they have not faced Polasek since 2012 Munich, falling against the Slovak and Frantisek Cermak.
Belgian reflects on injury-filled 2018 and the road back to top form
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on 24 March. David Goffin, a finalist at the Western & Southern Open, is the first Belgian to reach a championship match at an ATP Masters 1000 event.
The past 13 months have not been easy for David Goffin. After reaching the championship match at the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals, he missed four weeks early in 2018 due to a freak accident in the Rotterdam semi-finals that resulted in an eye injury. After making the semi-finals at Cincinnati in August, any momentum he gained came to a halt when he missed the final five weeks of the season due to an elbow injury.
But the Belgian takes solace in knowing that all it takes is one moment to turn it all around.
“It’s just been a tough period and I just need some confidence. I have it in practice, so that’s why I’m really positive,” Goffin told ATPTour.com. “Sometimes it could be a good match, a good battle, a good win or a good result in a tournament just to give me some confidence and just to see that I can do it and I’m still there and I have the level. It’s much better already this week.”
From 2014-17, Goffin built up confidence as he steadily improved his game. Each year, he broke a new milestone in the year-end ATP Rankings; first it was the Top 25, then the Top 20, the Top 15, and finally the Top 10 after his performance at the season finale in London two seasons ago.
“All of a sudden you start to have a lot of injuries, an accident, a fracture to my elbow and then changing my coach. It was like you have to rebuild a new base for the future and make a completely refined project because there’s something different, you want to change,” Goffin said. “I’m 28 now, so maybe it’s time to do something else for the next four or five years to still improve and I think it could be the best years in front of me in my career. It’s different, but it could take some time and I know that, so I’m patient and I hope it’s going to pay off.”
Goffin has recently reunited with 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson, who is his lone coach. The Swede spent time with Goffin in 2016, so there is plenty of familiarity between the two. They officially began their partnership after Marseille in February.
“I’m really happy to be back and now it’s the third week we’re working together on the [ATP] Tour,” Johansson said. “The good thing about that is we don’t need the ‘get to know each other’ time, because we know each other really well and we had a lot of contact even when we weren’t working together.”
Johansson acknowledges that Goffin, currently World No. 20, will have to dig deep to return to the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, having peaked at No. 7 in 2017. According to him, it may be even tougher now.
“I think it’s more challenging, because the depth in tennis now is amazing. Now is the first time ever that the youngsters are coming up and they’re actually challenging the big guns,” Johansson said. “So for me it’s extremely tough for a player like David to come back to the Top 10. But that’s our big goal, to try to achieve that.”
Listen To ATP Radio’s Interview With Johansson:
Goffin and Johansson are not making any major changes, as the Belgian’s game isn’t far off. He simply is fine-tuning various aspects of his game and hoping that piecing all of that together can make for a big pay-off.
“Just small details that I can do to be a little more aggressive, how I can be at the net, improve the serve and maybe the zone, the target where I hit the serve to be ready for the next shot on my groundstrokes,” Goffin said. “So it can be small details, but it could make a difference to be more aggressive.”
Goffin, who was 4-6 at tour-level entering this ATP Masters 1000 event, is into the third round of the Miami Open presented by Itau, where he will face 14th seed Marco Cecchinato. But he’s not dreaming of any specific goals. He’s simply working hard daily to try to regain his form.
“For the moment it’s just to come back at my best level and to be competitive match after match. I think it’s not perfect yet, but I’m improving. The good thing is I’m playing really well during practice,” Goffin said. “It could be one match, it could be a set. Sometimes you like to open the bottle and then you can be fine, so I’m still working hard. We are working together during practice and I know it’s going to come. Sometimes I play well, but I have to play well during the whole match. It’s better and better day after day.”
After speaking to ATPTour.com shortly after his second-round victory against Pablo Andujar, Goffin, racquets in hand, headed back towards the practice courts with Johansson.
“I’m just trying now to enjoy it. I enjoy every moment during practice. I just want to feel the same during every match to come back to play very relaxed, to hit every shot — and not tight — and to be creative; to create every point, to be aggressive, just play, because that’s what I love. I’m sure if I’m with this attitude, a good attitude, I think I can come back at my best and the results will come.”
Medvedev Rallies To Stun Djokovic, Reach Cincinnati Final
Russian storms back to defeat World No. 1 Novak Djokovic
Rolling the dice with a barrage of big second serves, Daniil Medvedev battled back from the brink of defeat to stun top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic at the Western & Southern Open on Saturday. The Russian reached his second ATP Masters 1000 final in as many weeks in Cincinnati.
Medvedev mounted a furious comeback to advance, having trailed Djokovic by 6-3, 3-2 30/40. He would deny the critical break point and flipped the script in a flash, prevailing 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and 43 minutes. It marked the first time Djokovic had lost a semi-final at the ATP Masters 1000 level when winning the first set since 2013 (to Del Potro in Indian Wells).
The World No. 8 reversed course in stunning fashion in the second and third sets, varying his pace and angles on serve and refusing to allow Djokovic to establish any rhythm. He left the Serbian in search of answers, often effectively rushing his serve with great success. His 16 aces are the most that Djokovic has allowed in a three-set match this year.
“To be honest, I don’t know how I did it,” Medvedev told Brad Gilbert of ESPN. “I was so tired in the first set and playing Novak I thought I wasn’t able to keep the intensity. Then, the one momentum change in the second set was the difference. The crowd gave me so much energy.
“Usually I’ll go bigger on my second serve when it’s not working and Novak was just destroying me in the first set. At one moment, I said to myself why do a normal second serve if I’m going to lose the point. I started to win much more after that.”
A 🚀 TO CLOSE!
✅ Washington final ✅ Montreal final ✅ Cincinnati final ❓ #CincyTennis 🏆
Medvedev advanced to his third straight tour-level final following championship appearances at the Citi Open in Washington (l. to Kyrgios) and the Rogers Cup in Montreal (l. to Nadal). He will face David Goffin on Sunday in what will be their third FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting. All encounters have come in 2019, with Medvedev winning at the Australian Open and Goffin exacting revenge in a five-set thriller at Wimbledon.
“I need to win (smiling),” said Medvedev. “No, actually, my mentality is always I take every match the same, from the first round, because I always say if you lose in the first round you won’t be in the final, so why to take it different?
“Talking about the final against Rafa, it was a tough one. I would say actually I don’t have any regrets. I mean, if it would be 7-6 in the third, then I would be sitting here, saying I had my chances. I had zero chances.
“Against Nick, I had my chances. I didn’t use them. I’m going to go out there tomorrow and be ready to fight, be consistent, and hopefully I can be the winner.”
The Russian is in strong position to punch his ticket to the Nitto ATP Finals in London, adding a tour-leading 43rd match win this year. He also owns 30 victories on hard courts – 10 more than second-placed Roberto Bautista Agut and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Djokovic was at his ruthless best in the first set, committing just three unforced errors and converting eight of nine points at the net. He seized the lone break point of the opener, using his forehand to open the court and put Medvedev on defense.
Playing his 17th match in 19 days, Medvedev would receive a visit from the physio (right arm) midway through the second set. Despite appearing in considerable pain, it would prove to exactly what he needed to flip the script. He reeled off 12 of the next 14 points to break Djokovic out of nowhere and force a decider. He struck 14 winners and hit just four unforced errors in the set.
It was in that moment that Medvedev decided to change his tactic on his second serve. It proved to be a critical decision. Going bigger with his delivery and varying his pace of play, the 23-year-old stormed back. His average second serve speed increased by 11 mph in the second and third sets.
After appearing as if Djokovic would run away with the match, they were suddenly headed to a decider in front of a packed crowd at the Lindner Family Tennis Center. The Serbian saw his streak of 37 consecutive service games won, since being broken to open the tournament, come to a close.
Medvedev kept his foot on the pedal as the third set got underway. He earned a quick break for 2-1 and did not look back. The Russian cruised to the finish line, capped with a perfect passing shot on his first match point.
It was his second win over Djokovic this year, following a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 victory at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. The Serbian still leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head by a count of 3-2.
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Djokovic was denied a 50th ATP Masters 1000 final appearance. He was bidding to join Rafael Nadal (51) and Roger Federer (50) in the exclusive club. One year ago, the Serbian completed the full set of Masters 1000 titles with his first Cincinnati crown.
Did You Know? Medvedev is the first Russian to reach the final in the 120 years of the Western & Southern Open.