Rog and Jack
Roger Federer and Jack Sock may just have produced the best match so far of the Hopman Cup and perhaps, the best match of the year so far. There was a rare mix of feel-good bromance and edge of your seat competitive spirit in this match. It was clear that these two were enjoying the challenge of playing each other, and their tennis as well. Both men enter 2018 with a confidence high after having great seasons in 2017.
Jack Sock certainly looks like he is playing the best tennis of his life at the moment. There is absolutely no doubt in his game at the moment. He is serving authoritatively and hitting off both wings so crisply. Then there is his movement, which he has improved tremendously and has given him a defense that wasn’t there this time last year. Against any other player, Sock would have most likely won this match.
But Federer has been playing on a different level at the Hopman cup, this year. He hasn’t dropped a set and against Sock, he produced some of his most inspired tennis – and it’s only January. Federer hit with the supreme confidence of a man who knows he is still at the peak of his powers right now. He moved brilliantly and that movement was the story behind his phenomenal break of serve in the second set where he played what will surely go down as one of the points of the year, with Sock.
Federer ultimately won the match, but Sock showed us he is one of the players to watch out for, Down Under.
Bel and Coco
Belinda Bencic seems to be feeding off the Roger Federer steam because she has been looking much better this year. It is still early days but she went up against one of the in-form U.S women in Coco Vandeweghe. Both ladies produced a serious baseline slugfest complete with blistering forehands and steadied backhands. These ladies came out to rip the ball and that they did. There aren’t many ladies who can hang in there with Coco when she is in that sort of mood but Bencic did and found a way to win the match. Let’s hope this carries on to their final and ultimately, to the Australian Open.
Dimitrov and Millman
Moving away from the Hopman cup, the tournament in Brisbane is picking up steam. Defending champion, Grigor Dimitrov went up against local boy, John Millman. Millman played the best match I’ve ever seen him play, covering the court exceptionally well and causing Dimitrov nightmares with his gets, passes, countershots and even his attacking play. For a while, Dimitrov appeared to have no answers to Millman’s onslaught. He was never in control of the rallies, even on his own serve.
Yet, with the loss of the first set, and with the match on the line in the second set tiebreak, Dimitrov continued to do what he had done at the YEC. He dug deep and continued to play some of his best tennis under immense pressure, saving two match points in the process. The Millman onslaught had been slowed just enough for Dimitrov to assert himself in the match, in the third set. The defending champion did just that and grabbed the victory against some inspired play from his opponent.
It is taking some time to get to this new Dimitrov. Everytime I think the old Grigor will surface, this new one keeps him in check and does the unexpected – win when not playing his best – again. It is reassuring to watch. Tennis is in need of champions to step up, especially as the ones we have continue to battle the wear and tear accumulated over the years.
This year’s Aussie open is still shaping up to be an exciting one.