ATP Washington 500 What The Title Would Mean to Murray Nishikori Dimitrov

Washington

CC courtesy of Marianne Bevis at Flickr

The ATP 500 Washington Citi Open gets underway next week with Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov among those playing for the title. While the winner stands to earn 500 points, the trophy and generous prize money, the title would also mean something to the winner in terms of confidence, health, and their US Open fortunes. The tennis review looks at what the title would mean to four of the favorites.

Andy Murray (1) has done a great job of getting back into the top three, reaching a slam final and winning titles (Madrid, Queens, Munich) in 2015.

What Murray has not done, though, is score a win over Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic since 2013. This year the Scot has suffered bruising defeats to Djokovic in the Australian Open final, the Indian Wells semi, the Miami final and the French Open semi-final, and was very much second best to Federer in the Wimbledon last four.

That status quo is likely to continue at the U.S Open unless Murray works his way into his optimum hard court form, the aggressive kind that won him the US Open 2012, beat Federer for the 2010 Canadian Open title, del Porto for the 2009 Canadian Open title, and Djokovic for the 2008 and 2011 Cincinnati titles.

Winning Washington would be a good way for Murray to get his game fit for what the Scot has said is his favourite slam, the US Open, where he will have to beat Federer or Djokovic, or both, for the title.

The Washington title would also make a statement to the rest of the ATP tour, reaffirming what it already knows- that Murray is far more consistent than those ranked below him- and also proving he still has what it takes to win big titles on the surface- if he wins the Citi Open title this week it will be his biggest hard court title since Miami 2013.

The 500 ranking points could also, if Murray does well in Montreal and Cincinnati, help make him the no.2 seed in New York meaning he would avoid his nemesis Djokovic until the final.

A win in Washington would also help him mentally if he makes the U.S Open final. Most likely, Murray will lose to Djokovic or Federer in Montreal and Cincinnati, but in a US Open final, with a Washington title under his belt, and if he can make his lead up matches versus Federer and Djokovic competitive, Murray could dig deep, find his game over five sets and really get his career back on track as a leading player rather than his current bridesmaid status.

Kei Nishikori (2) has been plagued by a calf injury of late, forcing him to pull out of his last two events (Halle, Wimbledon). Nishikori has had a month to rest the injury and a win in Washington would be just what he needs for his confidence on his best surface.

If Nishikori is going to win a Slam, it is going to be on hard courts, and his runner up finish at last year’s U.S Open suggests it could very well be there.

The aggressive baseliner has all the tools for hard court success and you get the feeling, if his health could hold up, he is just a few steps away from a breakthrough.

Injuries can play havoc with the minds of players on the comeback trail as they worry a step here, a surge there might flare it up again. But a week’s play and a title win in Washington would certainly help Nishikori get over any qualms he might have about his health, and could crucially, come the US Open,  help him over that first Grand Slam finishing line.

Marin Cilic (3) stormed to victory at last year’s U.S Open, but since then a shoulder injury has derailed him. The Croat did win the Moscow title in the autumn, however he withdrew from the Australian Open and did not make a quarter final on the tour until Wimbledon where he lost in three tame sets to Djokovic.

That run to the last eight in SW19, which saw Cilic battle past both Isner and Berankis in five grueling sets, was encouraging progress. Certainly his will to win is there, and if his huge serve and baseline game can be consistent, he could make another run for the title in New York. A win in Washington would help his cause no end as he would most likely have to beat the consistent Nishikori and Murray, players against whom only his best will suffice.

The title would also look good on his resume. Cilic, who has a Grand Slam on his C.V does not have any titles above ATP 250 alongside it. An ATP 500 in Washington would go some way to redressing that imbalance.

Grigor Dimitrov (6) has had a turbulent last year since he broke into the top ten to No.8 back in the first week of August 2014. The Bulgarian has slid down the rankings to No.16, failed to go beyond the fourth round of a slam, and been written off as the Next Big Thing.

That might change now that Dimitrov has gotten rid of the distraction of his very famous girlfriend, but what is most likely to make the biggest change is his firing of coach Roger Rasheed, who for all his skills as a fitness coach had some serious shortcomings with regards to technical and strategic coaching.

Dimitrov’s reliance on defense, his proneness to choking in big matches, and the failure to exploit his naturally aggressive game that allows his talents to shine have to be blamed somewhat on Rasheed and with him now out the picture Dimitrov’s game might get back on track.

That would need to happen for him to win Washington. The Bulgarian might have to get past in form Marcos Baghdatis in his opening round, the talented and recent Bogota Champion Bernard Tomic in the last sixteen, his Wimbledon conqueror and nemesis Richard Gasquet in the last eight, the ever consistent Murray in the last four, and then Nishikori in the final.

A run like that to the title would mean Dimitrov was back to the form that saw him win titles in Stockholm, Acapulco, Bucharest and Queens, and reach the Wimbledon semis from 2013-2014. That player was an aggressive, brave and imaginative Dimitrov, one the tennis world would be very pleased to have back in time for the U.S Open.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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