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Can Dimitrov Deny Djokovic To Snap Six-Year Title Wait In Paris?

  • Posted: Nov 04, 2023

Can Dimitrov Deny Djokovic To Snap Six-Year Title Wait In Paris?

Bulgarian last lifted tour-level trophy at 2017 Nitto ATP Finals

Grigor Dimitrov has the chance to end a rock-solid year in spectacular fashion at the Rolex Paris Masters.

The Bulgarian has been the model of consistency in 2023, racking up a 41-20 record and reaching one tour-level championship match and four other semi-finals. Although the 32-year-old Dimitrov’s wait for his ninth ATP Tour title has now gone on for nearly six years, he is determined to be proactive in trying to change that in Paris-Bercy as he takes on Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s final at the ATP Masters 1000. (Watch live from 3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET)

“I think for me where I’m at right now, things in a way, they’re going my way, but also I’m looking for them as well,” said Dimitrov after he overcame Stefanos Tsitsipas in Saturday’s semi-finals at the ATP Masters 1000 event. “I’m not waiting for my opponent to do something with it or I’m not waiting for them to miss.

“I want to win or lose on my own terms… I can control my attitude, and I don’t want to feel sorry for myself for the past years. I don’t want to feel like I have missed opportunities. Have I? Yeah, of course, too many, if you ask me. Have I made mistakes? Yes, too many.

“There comes a point where it’s like, okay, I’m accepting all that had been thrown at me, what I had to face, and I continue. I get to have another chance. So when you get that chance, try to use it. So I’m trying to give myself a chance.”

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Djokovic enters Sunday’s match on a 17-match winning streak and with an 11-1 Lexus ATP Head2Head lead against Dimitrov. Two of those victories came in Paris-Bercy (2016, 2019), where the Serbian is chasing a record-extending seventh title and his sixth tour-level crown of 2023. The 36-year-old has been tested this week in France, however, both by his opponents and a stomach virus that has left him feeling under the weather.

“[I have been] going through quite a difficult stomach virus that really made me feel terrible the past three days, but somehow [managed] to find strength, find energy under the adrenaline rush of playing a match,” said Djokovic, who battled past Tallon Griekspoor, Holger Rune and Andrey Rublev all in three sets to book his spot in the final. “Not giving up, fighting and believing that I can come back, which happened again and hopefully it can happen tomorrow.”

Djokovic would become the first player to win 40 Masters 1000 titles by extending his winning streak against Dimitrov to 10 on Sunday afternoon in Paris, where he tasted defeat in the 2022 final against Rune. It would also increase his Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin lead over Carlos Alcaraz to 1490 points and make it highly likely he will claim the ATP Year-End No. 1 presented by Pepperstone honour for the a record-extending eighth time.

Beating Djokovic in Bercy therefore represents a daunting task for Dimitrov, who lifted his sole Masters 1000 crown in Cincinnati in 2017, the same year as his Nitto ATP Finals triumph. He has already upsets seeded opponents Daniil Medvedev, Hubert Hurkacz and Tsitsipas this week, however, and the Bulgarian may feel he has little to lose as he looks for his eighth, and arguably most important, Top 10 win of the year.

“It means a lot to me for so many different reasons,” said Dimitrov of his Paris run. “I don’t take this very lightly… I appreciate it a lot because I know how difficult it has been for me, certain tournaments and months throughout the year. So I guess this came at the right time.

“I don’t know what to say. I think getting to this final means a lot more to me than some, I think even some moments, some big moments in my career. Right now I’m just staying in the moment. I have one more match to play. I’m going to give it all. What’s going to happen, I don’t know. But I’d say this week means, from a very different perspective, a lot.”

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Djokovic Rallies Past Rublev, Stays On Track For Seventh Heaven In Paris

  • Posted: Nov 04, 2023

Djokovic Rallies Past Rublev, Stays On Track For Seventh Heaven In Paris

World No. 1 to play Dimitrov in final at ATP Masters 1000 event

Novak Djokovic maintained his perfect record in semi-finals at the Rolex Paris Masters on Saturday evening, but not before overcoming a marathon hard-hitting test from Andrey Rublev in the French capital.

The World No. 1 prevailed 5-7, 7-6(3), 7-5 against the fifth-seeded Rublev to move within one win of a record-extending seventh title at the ATP Masters 1000. Despite some uncharacteristically wayward baseline play and having treatment from the physio on his lower back between the second and third sets, Djokovic held firm in the decider to clinch a three-hour, two-minute triumph.

“Rublev was suffocating me like a snake suffocates a frog for most of the match,” said Djokovic. “He was playing an extremely high level that he possesses, but today he was off the charts, honestly. I don’t think I’ve ever faced Rublev this good.”

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Djokovic is now 9-0 in semi-finals in Paris-Bercy, where he will compete for his 40th Masters 1000 crown in Sunday’s championship match. His opponent there will be Grigor Dimitrov, after the Bulgarian earlier defeated Stefanos Tstisipas 6-3, 6-7(1), 7-6(3).

“[I have been] going through quite a difficult stomach virus that really made me feel terrible the past three days, but somehow managing to find strength, find energy under the adrenaline rush of playing a match,” said Djokovic, when asked what he was most proud of this week as he bids for his seventh Paris title. “Not giving up, fighting and believing that I can come back, which happened again and hopefully it can happen tomorrow.”

Although he broke Rublev’s serve in the opening game of the match, Djokovic was not at his best in the first set inside Accor Arena. Rublev overhauled his early deficit to take the opener with the help of eight unforced errors from the Serbian, including a backhand drop shot that barely made it halfway up the net when set point down.

Djokovic had needed three sets to see off Tallon Griekspoor and Holger Rune in his previous two rounds in Paris and the top seed showed signs of fatigue throughout the match against Rublev. That did not stop him pressuring his opponent in return games, however. He carved out four break points to Rublev’s one in the second set and although neither man could convert, it was Djokovic who raised his level in the tie-break to level the match.

Despite receiving treatment on his lower back before the final set began, Djokovic looked focused as he began to dictate the baseline exchanges against the free-hitting Rublev. The fifth seed saved two break points to escape 15/40 in the fourth game, but he could not do the same at 5-6 as the under-pressure Rublev double-faulted on match point to hand Djokovic the win.

“I was struggling with my fitness again a little bit at the beginning, but I kind of went through it,” said Djokovic. “It was crucial obviously to win the second set. The tie-break, I served very well and that helped.

“In the third set, I thought I was always there in his service games, having chances. He came up with some big serves when he needed to, but in the end, a double fault. An unfortunate ending for him, but I think I deserved it considering the amount of effort and fight I put in, especially in the third.”

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#NextGenATP Cazaux’s Mission: ‘Put Some Show In The Game’

  • Posted: Nov 04, 2023

#NextGenATP Cazaux’s Mission: ‘Put Some Show In The Game’

21-year-old reflects on influence of French greats

France has rarely lacked entertainers when it comes to tennis. The country’s current crop of #NextGenATP talent is no different.

When Arthur Cazaux steps on court, he is not just thinking about continuing his rise up the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The 21-year-old is also driven by a need to follow in the footsteps of the sport’s great entertainers.

“I think it’s good to keep our identity and put some show in the game,” Cazaux told earlier this year. “It’s important for tennis and also for the crowd, because people come to watch us for a show. So it’s good to have these kinds of players, like Yannick Noah and now with Gael Monfils, with Nick Kyrgios. That’s good.”

The World No. 124 Cazaux will have to the chance to demonstrate his own on-court charisma at home this week at the Moselle Open in Metz, where he competes as a wild card at the ATP 250. Currently 11th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Jeddah, it could be a decisive moment in his bid to make a late charge towards the season-ending Next Gen ATP Finals.

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Arthur Cazaux in ATP Challenger Tour action in Bordeaux earlier this year. Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/ATP Tour.

With Arthur Fils and Luca Van Assche both in a strong position to make the eight-player field in Saudi Arabia, Cazaux could be the third Frenchman to qualify this year for the 21-and-under event. Like Fils and Van Assche, he is quick to pay tribute to the influence of the French stars of his childhood, some of whom are still playing and are now his colleagues on the ATP Tour.

“We always have many good players, many players in the Top 100, so I think [there are good role models] in France,” said Cazaux. “It was a good influence on me when I was younger. The ‘Musketeer’ generation, with [Richard] Gasquet, [Gael] Monfils, [Jo-Wilfried] Tsonga, [Gilles] Simon, also [Adrian] Mannarino, all these players. It was so nice to watch French players at the top.

“So it was good [then] in France and it’s still good in France. Now I can train with these kinds of players, I can talk with these kinds of players. It’s helped me a lot.”

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Cazaux’s biggest childhood idol actually hailed from one of France’s western European neighbours. Yet while Rafael Nadal was undoubtedly No. 1 in the young Cazaux’s eyes, one of the earliest matches that sticks in his memory featured the Spaniard playing second fiddle to a French great.

“[I remember] Tsonga destroyed Rafa [6-2, 6-3, 6-2] in the semi-final of the Australian Open [in 2008],” said Cazaux. “It was unbelievable. Jo took the match to his advantage, and he hit the ball so hard during this match, it was crazy… It was kind of crazy to put this kind of score up against Rafa during a semi-final.

“I was so young. Of course, I supported the French player, but Rafa was my idol… Jo was [also] a true inspiration for me. He was a role model. He played so good during all his career, he beat all the best players. I had the chance also to speak many times with him and he is an unbelievable person.”

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Advice from former Top 10 stars such as Tsonga seems to be paying off for Cazaux, who has won two ATP Challenger Tour titles, one of which came during a 13-match winning streak (including qualifying) at the start of 2023. He hit his career-high of No. 119 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in August.

“When I was speaking with him, often we spoke about the mentality,” reflected Cazaux on his time spent with Tsonga. “Also with injuries. Even though I’m young, I had many big injuries and I know Jo also had some big injuries during his career. We spoke a lot about this, about how to come back better on court. It was really cool.”

While Tsonga possessed plenty of joie de vivre on court, Monfils is the player whose game style Cazaux is most drawn to.

“Gael Monfils was one of my favourite players and is still one of my favourite players,” said Cazaux. “Now, I’ve met him, and I see him on the on the Tour, so it’s different, but he inspires me a lot, with his ‘showman’ style. We are also [both] big fans of the NBA, and we have this influence also. We spoke a lot about this.”

With so many potential inspirations, Cazaux could be forgiven for simply trying to replicate one of his childhood heroes with his on-court demeanour. Yet just as Tsonga, Monfils et al. did before him, Cazaux is focused on bringing his own unique brand of tennis to courts around the world.

“I’m authentic. I keep my personality,” he said. “I think I have my own personality and I’m very different from all the other players. I’m a cool guy and I think when you watch me on court, you think that too.”

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Dimitrov Reaches First Masters 1000 Final In Six Years, Defeats Tsitsipas In Paris

  • Posted: Nov 04, 2023

Dimitrov Reaches First Masters 1000 Final In Six Years, Defeats Tsitsipas In Paris

Bulgarian chasing first trophy since 2017

Grigor Dimitrov advanced to his second ATP Masters 1000 final and first since 2017 on Saturday when he clawed past Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-7(1), 7-6(3) at the Rolex Paris Masters.

The Bulgarian is chasing his first tour-level trophy since 2017, when he won the Nitto ATP Finals trophy. The 32-year-old moved to within one victory of achieving that feat after producing a high-quality display against Tsitsipas to improve to 2-6 in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series. With little to separate them, Dimitrov produced free-flowing tennis in the third-set tie-break to build a lead, before he struck a backhand pass on match point to advance after two hours and 32 minutes.

“I am just happy I was able to get through that match in such a manner,” Dimitrov said. “After that second set, especially the tie-break, it was getting very tricky again. 15/40 down in the third again and I was just thinking it can’t keep going like this, so I have to change something. In order to beat someone like him I just had to step through. That is the only thing I could have done.

“Throughout the match I felt I was doing a lot of good things and in the middle of the second [set] he picked up his game and in the end I waited for the tie-break.”

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Dimitrov, who reached his only other Masters 1000 final in Cincinnati in 2017, will face Novak Djokovic or Andrey Rublev in Sunday’s final. The 32-year-old is up to No. 14 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings and will climb to No. 12 on Monday if he wins the title. The last time Dimitrov was as high as No. 12 was in October 2018, when he was No. 10. The Bulgarian has now won 41 tour-level matches this year. He has only passed the 40 mark three times in his career.

“I played very good [in the tie-break],” Dimitrov said. “The first five points in the tie-break were excellent. I took those chances and that was all I could do against such a high-quality player. If you let him dictate you are done. But I kept on believing and kept staying focused and made sure everytime I had the ball on the racquet, I did something with it.”

Dimitrov took the ball early off both wings to rush Tsitsipas, who earned his 300th tour-level win on Friday. He struck 38 winners, won 23/25 of net points and saved all four break points he faced to earn his seventh Top 10 win of the season. He also defeated World No. 3 Daniil Medvedev in the second round in Paris.

“There were no tears but I got very emotional,” Dimitrov said. “I am just living in the moment right now. It has been a funny road of late, but each win means more and more to me.”

Tsitsipas was chasing his third ATP Masters 1000 title, having triumphed in Monte-Carlo in 2021 and 2022. The Greek will now travel to Turin where he will compete at the Nitto ATP Finals for the fifth consecutive year.

Did You Know?
The past three matches between Dimitrov and Tsitsipas have gone to deciding-set tie-breaks.

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Bopanna/Ebden Advance To Paris Final, Move Closer To World No. 1

  • Posted: Nov 04, 2023

Bopanna/Ebden Advance To Paris Final, Move Closer To World No. 1

Third seeds chasing third title of season

Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden moved to within one win of capturing their third title of the season together on Saturday when they overcame Harri Heliovaara and Mate Pavic 6-7(3), 6-4, 10-6 at the Rolex Paris Masters.

In a hard-fought clash, the third seeds won 88 per cent (46/52) of their first-serve points and were strong in the key moments, saving all three break points to advance after 89 minutes.

If Bopanna and Ebden triumph in Paris, the Indian-Australian team would pass Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek by 60 points to become World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings.

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Bopanna and Ebden are chasing their second ATP Masters 1000 crown of the year, having triumphed in Indian Wells in March. They have won 12 of their past 14 matches, advancing to the final at the US Open and in Shanghai. They will aim to go one step further in Sunday’s title match when they meet Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury or Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

Bopanna and Ebden will compete at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin later this month to round out their season.

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Dimitrov's Love Letter To Monfils: Lexus ATP Head2Head Scavenger Hunt

  • Posted: Nov 04, 2023

Dimitrov’s Love Letter To Monfils: Lexus ATP Head2Head Scavenger Hunt

Watch the thrilling off-court video below

Paris is the city of love, but close friends Gael Monfils and Grigor Dimitrov had to put that aside briefly at the Rolex Paris Masters, where they competed in the latest Lexus ATP Head2Head Scavenger Hunt.

The former Top 10 stars raced in a Lexus vehicle to the historic Place des Vosges, where they worked through a scavenger hunt list. Dimitrov slid down a slide and Monfils did a quick dance.

At one point, Dimitrov sat down to pen a letter to Monfils nearby the Maison de Victor Hugo, which was once the home of famous writer Victor Hugo.

“Dear Gael,

So they say love is a bad thing to have in tennis, but this is all I have for you.

You won today, but what can I do? I cannot possibly stay mad at you.

All my love, G”

Why did Dimitrov write Monfils the poetic letter? Watch the full Lexus ATP Head2Head Scavenger Hunt above to find out.

Did You Know?
Monfils leads the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series 4-1, although they have not met on court since the Miami ATP Masters 1000 event in 2016. They first played one another in a tour-level clash at the 2011 US Open.

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Zverev, Rune Complete 2023 Nitto ATP Finals Field

  • Posted: Nov 04, 2023

Zverev, Rune Complete 2023 Nitto ATP Finals Field

Four former champions to compete in Turin

The singles field for the 2023 Nitto ATP Finals is set. Alexander Zverev and Holger Rune on Friday claimed the final two spots for the season finale, which will be played at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 12-19 November.

Zverev and Rune join Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev, Jannik Sinner, Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the elite field.

With 20-year-olds Alcaraz and Rune both qualifying, two 20-and-under players will compete in the same Nitto ATP Finals for the first time since 2000, when 19-year-old Lleyton Hewitt and 20-year-old Marat Safin made their debuts.

Four of the stars have triumphed at the Nitto ATP Finals before. Six-time champion Djokovic can break his tie with Roger Federer for the most titles in year-end championships history (since 1970). Zverev won the title in 2018 and 2021, while Tsitsipas triumphed in 2019 as a 21-year-old, becoming the youngest tournament winner since 20-year-old Hewitt in 2001, and Medvedev lifted the trophy in 2020.

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Djokovic, Alcaraz and Medvedev have reached No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Djokovic is in pole position to earn ATP Year-End No. 1 presented by Pepperstone honours. If the Serbian achieves the feat for a record-extending eighth time, he would also reach 400 career weeks at World No. 1 on 20 November, the day after the tournament ends. He would become the first player to reach the milestone.

ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said: “Congratulations to all the players that have qualified for the 2023 Nitto ATP Finals. It’s a reflection of a truly impressive season. This is a unique tournament, featuring only the best of the best, with so much on the line for players. The stage is now set for an incredible final showdown in Turin.”

Seven of this year’s eight competitors have qualified for or played in the Next Gen ATP Finals, including three champions: Tsitsipas (2018), Sinner (2019) and Alcaraz (2021).

The doubles field is also set. Ivan Dodig/Austin Krajicek, Wesley Koolhof/Neal Skupski, Rohan Bopanna/Matthew Ebden, Marcel Granollers/Horacio Zeballos, Santiago Gonzalez/Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Rajeev Ram/Joe Salisbury, Maximo Gonzalez/Andres Molteni and Rinky Hijikata/Jason Kubler will compete for the title at the Pala Alpitour.

This year’s Nitto ATP Finals will award a record $15 million in prize money. If the champion at this year’s tournament lifts the trophy without losing a match, he will earn more than $4.8 million, the largest prize money for an individual player in the history of tennis.

This will be the third edition of the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin. The draw is set to take place on Thursday 9 November at 3 p.m. CET.

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