Grigor Dimitrov defeated French wild-card entrant Lucas Pouille in the second round of the French Open on May 30, setting up a rematch against world number one Novak Djokovic.
Dimitrov beat Pouille in three sets – 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 – in one hour and 48 minutes, but play was interrupted twice because of rain in Paris. The first interruption came at the end of the second set and appeared to kill any positive moment Pouille had gained in the second set.
Dimitrov made fewer mistakes after play resumed and raced to a 4-1 lead in the third set before rain interrupted the match again. After the second rain break, Dimitrov quickly wrapped up the match by winning the next two games.
In defeating Pouille, Dimitrov became the first Bulgarian men’s tennis player to progress to the third round of a Grand Slam tournament, improving on last year’s performance – a set and a break up in his second-round match against 17th seed Richard Gasquet, Dimitrov suffered an injury and eventually lost.
This year, seeded 26th, Dimitrov has faced weaker opposition in the early rounds (his first-round opponent, Alejandro Falla, retired with Dimitrov one set up), but the luck of the draw has set him on a collision course with Djokovic for their fourth meeting in seven months.
Djokovic won the first two matches – at the Shanghai Masters last year and at Indian Wells in March (both played on hard courts) – but won the latest meeting, on clay at the Madrid Masters earlier this month.
Djokovic, the 2011 champion in Madrid, appeared to be struggling with an older ankle injury, which he further aggravated in the second set when he twisted his injured ankle midway through the second set. He also faced a hostile crowd in Madrid, unhappy with Djokovic snapping Rafael Nadal’s streak of eight titles at the Monte-Carlo Open just days earlier.
This time, he will face a fit Djokovic gunning for his first French Open title, the only one missing in his collection of six Grand Slam titles. He came close last year, but lost to Nadal in a four-set final played over two days.
(Grigor Dimitrov, photo: mirsasha/flickr.com)