By Alessandro Mastroluca
- Cameron Norrie will open the tie against World No.423 Dimitar Kuzmanov in Sydney
- Dan Evans will meet Grigor Dimitrov for the fourth time, trailing 2-1 in the head-to-heads
- The doubles tie, to be defined yet, will complete the tie
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – Great Britain will open their campaign in the ATP Cup facing Bulgaria in Sydney on January, 3, from 6.30 GMT. Britwatch Sports previews the tie.
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Great Britain will open their Group C campaign at the brand new ATP Cup against Bulgaria in Sydney on January, 3 (06:30 GMT). World number 42 Dan Evans will take on former Wimbledon semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov in the key match of the tie. Before that clash, the number-2 singles players selected will face in the opening rubber: world No.53 Cameron Norrie is expected to face World Dimitar Kuzmanov, ranked 423rd in the world.
Cameron Norrie v Dimitar Kuzmanov | First Meeting
Norrie starts as the clear favourite against the modest Kuzmanov. Norrie, who grew up in New Zealand and began representing Great Britain in 2013, won more than half of his matches played in the ATP Tour on hard-court (27-26), notably his best surface.
In Auckland, the city where he was raised, in 2019 he advanced to his maiden ATP Tour final as a wild card. Later that year, he broke into Top 50 on 4 March and achieved his career-high No. 41 on May, 20.
The former college champion, almost unbeatable in the 2017 NCAA season when he was attending Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, isn’t a power player. He earned his results through lithe movement, delicate touch, and precise lefty serves.
His main weapons should let him dismiss his opponent, much less experienced at ATP level, having recorded only seven wins in 16 matches. Kuzmanov considers himself as a clay-court specialist, and it could open an even wider gap between the two contenders.
Prediction: Norrie in straight sets
READ MORE | ATP Cup 2020: the latest schedules and draws
Dan Evans v Grigor Dimitrov | H2H: Dimitrov leads 2-1
Dimitrov will act as both Bulgaria’s captain and No.1 singles player. He transcended tennis in his country. He became a source of inspiration for other players, a role model, an ambassador for Bulgarian tennis, mentality and traditions. In the key rubber of the tie, he will face Evans, who trails 2-1 in the head-to-heads.
Evans lost 7-5 7-5 in their most recent encounter in Chengdu. In a contest full of quality tennis, he took too many risks on the crucial points and wasn’t able to build on the Bulgarian’s only hiccup. Dimitrov, playing his first match after his surprising run at the US Open, dropped serve when he served for the match at 5-3.
But the Brit gave the break back delivering a forehand wide on the second match point. He had also won their first meeting in Eastbourne in 2011, while Evans prevailed in the second round of the Citi Open in Washington in 2016. Then ranked No. 82 in the world, Evans had three match points at 5-2 in the second set but Dimitrov saved them all and broke. The Brit needed five match points to seal the victory.
Coming off his best season, the British No.1 returned to career-high No. 41 in ATP Rankings in October, posted a career-high 19 wins and played in his second ATP Tour final at Delray Beach as a qualifier during the 2019 season. This should increase his confidence and reduce the uncertainties resurfacing in his game on the key points of a match.
According to the ATP Leaderboard, Dimitrov has been a better server in the last 52 weeks, although Evans has shown a more reliable second delivery: he obtained more points on percentage and committed fewer double-faults per match.
READ MORE | Everything you need to know about the ATP Cup
Evidently more self-assured, the only Bulgarian in the Top 100 returns better against opponents’ first serves and converted more breakpoints in the same period. He reached better winning percentages in deciding sets, although Evans won more tie-breaks.
With his net game, he could force the Bulgarian to react and counter-attack on return, but he would need to take control of the rallies often enough not to let Dimitrov use his backhand to change the pace. As he demonstrated in the second part of the season, he made relevant improvements to make his footwork quicker. His footwork now gives him a better chance to get to his opponent’s shot and reach a more favourable position to attack from. Such a strategical advantage should give him a decisive edge.
Prediction: Dimitrov in three sets
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Doubles: To Be Determined
Captain Tim Henman can count on two solid doubles players, although they have never played as a team: former doubles World No.1 Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury, who qualified for his first ATP Finals partnering experienced American Rajeev Ram.
Recently Salisbury built a reputation as a trickster, as an outrageous tweener in Vienna testified. Coming off his breakout season, he could benefit from the experience of the two-time men’s doubles Grand Slam champion, still one of the most dangerous competitors on ATP Tour. Both players know how to use the angles to put the opponents out of their comfort zone. The opening tie will offer them a good way to know each other a bit better and develop an effective team strategy.
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