Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

“The closest ATP final we had so far”, says Sky tennis expert Marcel Meinert

Posted on 19 November 2017 by Ena Bilobrk

Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin will go head-to-head in London’s O2 Arena for the second time in this years Nitto ATP Finals to prove they are the world’s best. Kicking out both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Goffin would deserve to be crowned champion. Yet, Dimitrov had beaten every opponent in this year’s Finals and we asked Sky Germany’s tennis expert Marcel Meinert who has got that X-Factor to outshine his opponent. 

“Winning the group stage match against Goffin has definitely empowered Dimitrov. He pulverised him. But Goffin has certainly proven against Federer that he does not care about the past”, said Meinert. 

Goffin, ranked eighth, has been in superb form but suffered a major set-back after tripping on court covers during a third-round match against Horacio Zeballos at the French Open. The 26-year-old had to retire from the tournament early due to a severe ankle injury. 

Meinert is happy he returned: “He was even thinking about quitting the season early due to physical problems. Thank god he didn’t do it. Later winning in Tokyo and Shenzen definitely provided him with self-confidence needed after such a set-back.”

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The last player to beat the two top players at the ATP Finals went on to win the tournament. Eight years ago it was Nikolay Davydenko who had beaten Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to reach the final and beat Juan Martín del Potro.

“He used to be labelled as a very defensive player, and now he is winning games through aggressiveness, by playing the exact opposite style. That change hasn’t happened only this year, it has been a process over past couple of years and I knew from the start of the season that he will be very strong in 2017”, explained Meinert. 

Yet, Dimitrov had the better season. 

He could become the first Bulgarian to win the Finals and to prove he can make headlines on the court, as well. Mainly known for dating Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and now Nicole Scherzinger, the 26-year-old’s greatness has finally become visible. 

“He has gone through an impressive development. From constantly being criticised for having ‘baby fat’ and making more headlines off the court to playing in the ATP finals. He has become so much more focused on tennis rather than women”, said Meinert. 

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The absence of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and other top players has certainly helped others to push through. Yet, it is not undeserved. 

Meinert sees this year’s Final as “one of the most unexpected and close” ones and is looking forward to next season when Djokovic and Co. make their come-backs: 

“If we are lucky and the big guys head into 2018 largely uninjured, we will have a great season. There are still questions to be answered, like how and when Djokovic is going to return, for example. With Andy Murray it seems to be more concrete and the same applies for Wawrinka. Yet, again, not all of them will make a Federer-like comeback.”

The rankings of young players like Alexander Zverev or Dominic Thiem have benefited from the absence of big players. They will be challenged more intensively from earlier when competing against top-level players from earlier on. 

Meinert is confident this will make them work even harder and someone like “Alexander Zverev won’t be intimidated by anyone”. 

A tumultuous season has come to its end, one that everyone will remember. In the men’s doubles John Peers and Henri Kontinen will taken on Łukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo at 3:30pm. 

Yet at 6pm, all eyes will be on Dimitrov and Goffin, who will write the final chapter of tennis history in 2017 and clear the path for a new era.