Dudi Sela reflected back on a ‘great’ week at Wimbledon – despite it ending in disappointing fashion on Saturday afternoon, after injury forced him to retire from this third round match against Grigor Dmitrov.
Two sets down, and having already called a medical time-out at the end of the first set, the Israeli was forced to throw in the towel, though was still upbeat over what he had achieved – notably knocking out American John Isner in an epic four-hour five-set clash on Thursday.
Speaking to Jewish News after his exit, Sela said: “Looking back on the week, it’s been great. I’ve learnt a lot this week about my body. I played five sets on the first day, five in the double and another five [when beating Isner], I learned some things about recovery, what’s better for me. I’ve only ever used ice once, but now I’ve realised what an amazing thing it is in terms of recovering. I was never using it before, there are other things too. Before if I played five sets, I would think how can I play the next day? But if you do the right things, in terms of fitness, diet, I’ve realised I can recover.”
Revealing the injury first surfaced during his victory over Isner, he said: “It was my groin injury which I felt a little bit during the Isner match, I felt it a bit today, the same way as at the end of that match. When I started moving today, I felt a lot of pain, in my groin and to my knee. I felt very heavy, I couldn’t push, I couldn’t run and it was tough to play. I’m not one of the guys who can ace and play fast, if I don’t have movement in my legs, my tennis is zero.”
However, also praising his opponent, who displayed why he is the 13th seed, he said: “It’s disappointing [the injury], but he was playing well. In the beginning he was playing very good, I was really impressed by him. Even if I was a bit slow with all the balls, I was really, really impressed by him. He puts all the balls back from the serve, his serve is big and he will do very well, he’s very confident.”
But taking confidence from his run here, he said: I won two matches here this week, which is good for points, good for money, but also good for my confidence for the next few weeks when I play in the States, and also for my goal in the rankings. I have to defend 50 points until the end of the year to remain in the top 80 ranking in the world, which is nothing. So I will stay at least at 80 and I have a good chance to go higher in the rankings if I play well.”
On how high he thinks he can be get in the rankings, he added: “You never know, it depends on the draw. Today I got Dmitrov, it could have been an easier guy who’s not ranked so high, so you never know. I can play four weeks in a row – against the first, second, third and then fourth seed – and the confidence goes down, but where I want to be is in the top 50.”
Happy on the whole with 2017 to date, he said: “I think all this year has been ok for me, except for one week where I didn’t play well. But the rest I played well. After Australia I did well with the Davis Cup in Portugal, then I did a mistake going for an indoor tournament after going for clay, the day after and then flew to the States, I then had Nick Kyrgios and then Nadal in Miami, I have to stay positive, play the right tournaments and then we’ll see.”
Now looking ahead to the rest of the year, and more pertinently, preparation for the fourth and final Grand Slam next month at the US Open, he is set to fly to Newport on Thursday – depending on how his recovery goes – before playing in Atlanta and Washington, and then assessing his final preparations ahead of Flushing Meadows.
Saturday’s match was always going to be a tough test for Dmitrov, the first set saw both players hold serve in their first service game, before Dmitrov claimed the first of three breaks to take control. A double-fault from Sela handed him the second, before the third wrapped up the first set at 6-1 with just 28 minutes on the clock.
Sela then went off-court for a medical time out, though his fortunes didn’t improve in the second set, Broken again in his first serve, Sela ended an eight-game losing run to stay in touch at 3-1, and although he spurned a break-point to get back on serve, Dmitrov was too powerful, cunning and ruthless, which coupled with Sela’s injury struggles, saw the Bulgarian serve out the second set, taking it 6-1, before Sela was forced to retire