ATP Indianapolis: Championship Sunday
The championship match was probably not what promoters had hoped for with both remaining U.S. born players losing tough 3 set semifinal matches. Still, world #25 Gilles Simon had played gritty tennis all week and world #32 Dmitry Tursunov was the defending champion. The 1st meeting between these two players looked pretty even on paper. My semifinal observation was that Simon was a determined and intelligent player who has great defensive skills and that Tursunov can really punish his serve and forehand. I figured that Tursunov’s offense would beat Simon’s defense on a fairly fast court. I was wrong.
Gilles Simon d. Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 6-4: Match Thoughts
I sat courtside, and it was a hot humid day. Fans were sweating from just being in the heat. Neither player seemed to wilt from the elements, but this was not a pleasant low humidity day. Tursunov looked sharp early winning his serve and earning break points in the 2nd game of the match. Simon saved both break points and a frustrated Tursunov dumped his serve in the next game. Both men held serve relatively routinely thereafter and Simon took the 1st set 6-4.
The 2nd set mirrored the first with Tursunov holding serve and jumping to a 15-40 lead in the 2nd game of the set. Simon fought back by serving to Tursunov’s forehand on the deuce side. This unorthodox tactic of challenging Tursunov’s best shot with a well angled serve worked for Simon as he leveled the set at 1-1 after saving 3 break points. Simon would use that play throughout the remainder of the match. Tursunov saved 1 break point in the 3rd game of the set after an ill advised drop shot put him in jeopardy. At 3-3 Tursunov was serving with new balls, and he fell behind 0-40 after a double fault and 2 forehand unforced errors. At 15-40 a 3rd forehand error seemingly doomed Tursunov as he fell behind 4-6, 3-4. Simon quickly fell behind 0-40 due to some extreme power from Tursunov. Simon fought back to deuce only to fall behind by another break point. A service winner brought it back to deuce and the wide serve on the deuce court helped Simon get an ad and eventually hold for a 6-4, 5-3 lead. After Tursunov held, Simon held serve at 30 and won the match 6-4, 6-4.
Tursunov had to regret not converting on any of the 9 break points he earned, but Simon did serve intelligently and played determined tennis. The trophy presentation was marked with Simon downplaying his early lead in the U.S. Open Series standings. Tursunov got a laugh by thanking the umpires. Simon got more laughs by thanking everyone involved including the stringers.
Post Match Interviews
Tursunov was quite engaging in his interview and he even cracked a joke walking into the press room saying “Oh, you guys again.” Tursunov was honest that he faced nerves during the match. He commented that he had never played Simon before and still had not figured out the best way to play against him. Tursunov was surprised by “how many balls he can get to.” Tursunov made some self-effacing jokes about the multiple failed drop shots he tried during the match. He said he should do more planning of how he wants to play points and that one thing he learned from this match was that “drop shots don’t seem to work.” Tursunov was happy to get adjusted to the humidity and heat of hard court tennis.
Gilles Simon was elated entering the interview room. He beamed while saying that today was his best level of play for the week. Simon said, “That was the match I wanted to play.” He was fired up about beating a lot of good players to win the tournament. When asked about the 17 consecutive break points he saved in the 3rd set of the semifinal and the championship match, Simon said, “(You) don’t want to give the point … I want him to win. He has to play a good shot to win the game. (I) Never want to give the break.” This scrappy approach to pressure points undoubtedly helped him win in Indianapolis and will serve him well in the future. He joked that he could not celebrate the win much because on “Sunday everything is closed. They should play finals on Saturdays.”
Indianapolis is a nice event that is fan accessible. Tursunov strikes me as a guy with a great forehand who can make a leap forward on tour by using his that shot to open the court and dictate play rather than solely trying to pound winners. I was impressed with his candid admission that nerves impacted his shot selection. Gilles Simon is a player with a bright future. I am not sure if his strokes have enough bite to contend for the biggest prizes in the sport, but he plays consistent, intelligent, and competitive tennis. He is opportunistic on offense and plays great defense. Simon has a chance to play Roger Federer in the 2nd round at Masters Series Canada. I am not calling an upset especially since Simon still has to win a 1st round match in Toronto, but he plays somewhat akin to Andy Murray and forces his opponent to generate offense. This may not be a fancy recipe for success, but it is a proven method for attaining good results on the tennis court.
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