Venue: Arena “Armeec” sports hall, Sofia
Lens: Nikkor 70-300 mm f/4-5.6 – mostly using the 300mm end
Music: Chicago – Hard to say I’m sorry ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqq3tW3iACw – see also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7d4rutU_Lo)
Last week in Sofia took place the “Garanti Koza” Sofia Open tennis tournament, part of the ATP World Tour in the professional men’s tennis. It was a major sport event in Sofia and Bulgaria as a whole, largely due to a single person:
Grigor Dimitrov. In recent years he is one of the top tennis players, and in the last few months he’s been in the form of his life. So the atmosphere in the Arena “Armeec” sports hall was really fantastic, everyone cheering Dimitrov loudly in anticipation of his victory. And they were very much not disappointed. I am a great fan of tennis myself so I had bought tickets for the semifinals and the final game many months in advance. And of course I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to take some amateur shots from the stands, which you can see below together with my commentary about the unfolding action.
We start with the first semifinal of the singles tournament: Roberto Bautista-Agut (Spain) vs. David Goffin (Belgium).
Bautista-Agut is world’s number 16 and was the 4th seeded in the Sofia Open tournament, having won the same tournament here last year. His playing style is aggressive baseliner as he’s very strong in his baseline game without taking many risks. He was the first to break his opponents’ serve and win the first set 7:5.
Goffin is ranked 11 in the world and was the 2nd top seeded player in the torunament, his playing style being almost identical to the one of Bautista-Agut. He is however slightly more aggressive at times and goes out close to the net as you can see here. He was fast to strike back and take the second set with 6:4.
The third decisive set was an even bigger battle between equals, both players breaking the opponent serve and then re-breaking, eventually getting the set to a tie-break that would decide the first finalist.
And the winner was David Goffin, who was more aggressive in the tiebreak. The game took more than two hours and was probably the best and most dramatic battle in the tournament, but there’s always a loser in tennis and this time it was the Spaniard.
Before the second much-awaited semifinal in singles took place, it was time for one of the semi’s in the double tournament (the other semifinal in doubles had already been played the previous day) – the Serbian couple Troicki (serving here)/Zimonjic vs. the Slovak-Polish duet Klizan/Fyrstenberg.
It was the best game in doubles I have personally seen with lots of dramatic comebacks and great shots close to the net, and in the end the Serbian duo won 3:6 7:6 10:8. They were about to play in the final against the Russians Elgin/Kuznetsov.
The time for the next semifinal was coming, but there was still a short break between the matches to take out Guinny for a stroll around Arena “Armeec”.
And out came Grigor Dimitrov, world’s number 12 and 3rd top seeded in Sofia. He played an amazing tennis in this year’s Australian Open and only lost in the semifinal there to Rafael Nadal in a 5 set drama.
Dimitrov’s opponent was world’s 67 Nikoloz Basilashvili from Georgia, who had surprisingly beaten the top seeded Dominic Thiem the day before.
Both Dimitrov and Basilashvili are all-court players that rely on strong serving as well as solid game from the baseline without being scared of going closer to the net and taking more risks.
But there was no surprise here – Dimitrov took the match quite easily, winning 6:1 6:3 in less than an hour. So the home crowd was ecstatic about the next day and the final game between Goffin and Dimitrov.
Sunday is the day of the week dedicated to tennis finals, and the first one in the program was in the doubles tournament – the Serbian vs. the Russian duo. Troicki and Zimonjic (serving here) played a very solid game and had less problems in the final than in the previous day, winning 6:4 6:4 and lifting the cup.
But in reality everyone in the sport hall was waiting for the next game.
Goffin and Dimitrov have played quite a few games against each other, and in every one of them the winner was Dimitrov. So understandably he was the favorite not only of the crowds but also of the bookmakers.
Maybe it was Dimitrov’s one handed backhand slice that proved impossible to return for Goffin, but again it was a relatively easy match for the Bulgarian with only a few scares.
7:5 6:4 for Dimitrov and standing ovation as he emotionally kneeled down and kissed the home ground.
Then came the time for lifting the trophy and giving speeches, and the next day he was off to Rotterdam for the next event in the ATP World Tour. Only a few days later he is now facing Goffin once more in the 1/4 final of the Dutch tournament and is making Bulgaria proud with his amazing run of 16 wins and one loss in 2017. So that’s life as a tennis player, you need to keep going strong every week starting from the beginning. Of course probably the tournament prizes of several hundred thousand dollars help somewhat, but one surely needs some internal strength and motivation to stay on track. Go Grigor!