The Highlights Analysis: Federer vs Dimitrov (Brisbane 2016)

This match up has always been a juicy one since Dimitrov burst unto the scene with all of 17 years under his life-belt.  He quickly evoked strong comparisons to the great Swiss, with his free flowing tennis and his even freer flowing one handed backhand.

However, the young Bulgarian also showed gaping differences between their games and over the years, many have agreed he still has a bit of improvement to make, in order to catch up with Federer.  This notion has been punctuated with their head to head, which up until today, had been an abysmal 0 – 3 against Dimitrov.  Even more disappointing, was the glaring fact that Dimitrov had played 6 sets against his great Idol and won exactly none.

Today, however, We finally got a match with these two playing some of the high octane tennis we’ve imagined they would against each other.  The serving was like a storm of thunderbolts, the rallies frenzied, fierce and often punctuated by a sizzling array of furious winners, caressed deft touches and lunging cat-like volleys.  And what’s more, Dimitrov won a set.  Make that 1 – 7 Federer.  Ha!  No one wins eight sets in a row against Grigor.  Unfortunately, Federer made it four matches in a row.  Let’s take a look at what set them apart today.

1.) The Serve: Both these guys serve very well and place their deliveries close to the lines.  Heck, even their service motions are similar.  However, Federer was broken once, while Dimitrov was broken thrice.  Once in each set.  It showed a fundamental difference with these two players.  Federer serving is clutch.  Dimitrov’s is not… at least not yet.  It’s not like this is new with the Bulgarian.  Against Djokovic and Murray especially, Dimitrov has built a reputation of putting himself in a position to serve out a set, only to be broken then.  The other players won’t miss that trait and Federer knew exactly when to get himself back into the second set.  However, this… mental lapse… Dimitrov is prone to, can happen at anytime during a set.  He may be able to get away with it against the second tier, but not with guys like Federer.  It cost him today.

2.) The Return: Dimitrov managed one break today and while that had a lot to do with Federer’s serving, it also had a lot to do with Dimitrov’s return game as well.  I mentioned in yesterday’s highlights analysis of the Federer-Kamke match, that Federer has subtly incorporated a bit of the Agassarian essence in his return game.  It showed again today.  He was taken aggressive wacks at Dimitrov’s serve, particularly the second serve.  Everything about Federer’s return game appeared deliberate.  Dimitrov’s returns were more instinctive and reactionary.  There were reflex returns, wild slap returns, lunging gets and very few precise returns aimed at striking a winner or taking control of a rally.  The result?  Not many looks at the Federer serve.

3.) The Net Play:  Now this was a big one.  It also showed how Federer is more adept and more experienced at using his multi-faceted game, than Dimitrov is at using his.  Federer repeatedly attacked the net, and was successful with it, throughout the match.  How big was this?  It was a chip and charge return that got the decisive break in the third.  Dimitrov was largely unsuccessful passing Federer today.  He never really had the set up time and the occasional net rushes by Federer, seemed to catch him off guard and throw him off his rhythm a bit.  It made a world of difference.  I wonder if Dimitrov will add that to his tool kit.

All in all, I think both players will take positives away from this match.  For Dimitrov, he’s got some good wins under his belt already and he played his best match by a mile and a half, against Federer today.  For Federer, well he knows where his game is at and he’s gotta be feeling optimistic about the performance, considering he hasn’t been feeling 100% for a few days now.  Once he recovers, his game should go up and up.  That’s the logical thought process right?  Let’s watch the tennis do the talking.

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