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Grigor Dimitrov was clutch in the big moments to claim the Nitto ATP Finals crown.

Grigor's Secret Weapon In London

Brain Game explores the keys to victory for Grigor Dimitrov in the Nitto ATP Finals championship

His backhand kept him in the match, but it was his forehand that wrapped both hands around the trophy.

Grigor Dimitrov defeated David Goffin 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to win the Nitto ATP Finals at The O2 on Sunday, with his forehand hugely responsible for the only break of serve in the third and deciding set. With Goffin serving at 2-3 in the third, Dimitrov hit 12 rally backhands in the game, committing two errors. Importantly, no Dimitrov rally backhand extracted an error from Goffin on the other side of the court. 

His forehand, on the other hand, did all the heavy lifting.

Dimitrov hit 11 rally forehands in the game, five of which forced an error from the Belgian - including the final two points of the game to secure the critical break. Those five rally forehands from Dimitrov won’t turn up in a winner column on a stats sheet, but they had a major bearing on the final result. 

Three of the five errors from Goffin in the game actually came from run-around forehands from Dimitrov, as he upgraded from his comparatively slower backhand to his more potent forehand. If Dimitrov had just accepted those rally five balls to the Ad court as a backhand, the match could easily have taken a different twist at that important juncture.

Overall for the match, Dimitrov hit 62 per cent (174) forehands and 38 per cent (108) backhands, with his forehands being struck almost 20 per cent harder. Dimitrov averaged 75mph from his forehand wing, and just 62mph with his backhand.

In general play, Goffin was always looking to match up his stronger backhand through the Ad court to Dimitrov’s backhand, which made it imperative for the Bulgarian to hit as many run-around forehands as possible to escape the effective “backhand cage” tactics from Goffin.

The Belgian hit a substantial 82% of his backhands cross court to Dimitrov’s backhand, enjoying a critical power advantage in this area, mainly because he could force Dimitrov to slice the ball from deep behind the baseline where Goffin was not in any danger of getting hurt.

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Average Backhand Speed 
• Goffin = 68mph
• Dimitrov = 62mph

Groundstroke Topspin / Slice Ratio
• Goffin = 93% topspin / 7% slice
• Dimitrov = 73% topspin / 27% slice

Backhand Rally Hit Point 
• Goffin = 21% inside baseline / 79% behind
• Dimitrov = 14% inside baseline = 86% behind

Dimitrov Serving
Dimitrov’s serve performance was up and down during in the match, with nerves playing a part in some wayward tosses, and also responsible for six double faults. But in the third set, Dimitrov’s serve lifted, particularly winning critical free points by forcing more return errors from Goffin than in any other set.

Dimitrov Unreturned Serves
• Set 1 = 30%
• Set 2 = 28%
• Set 3 = 41%

Dimitrov also won the highest percentage of first and second serve points of any set in the third set, sending down just one ace, but most importantly, just committing one double fault.

Dimitrov 1st Serve Points Won
• Set 1 = 70%
• Set 2 = 61%
• Set 3 = 73%

Dimitrov 2nd Serve Points Won
• Set 1 = 25%
• Set 2 = 60%
• Set 3 = 64%

Rally Length
Dimitrov won just six more points than Goffin (108 - 102) for the match. with that slight advantage coming mostly in the extended rallies of 10+ shots. Overall, 91 per cent of all points were in the single digits of nine shots or less, with both players being almost dead even in points won.

Points Won Under 9 Shots 
• Dimitrov = 96
• Goffin = 95

Points Won 10+ Shots
• Dimitrov = 12
• Goffin = 7

It was a see-sawing, high quality final that had the packed house on the edge of their seats as they witnessed Dimitrov finally seal victory on his fifth match point. A handful of seemingly random forehands earlier in the set had an important say in Dimitrov winning the biggest title of his career.

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