Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov won his Australian Open third-round match against Milos Raonic of Canada in four sets on January 18 (6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6) to reach the second week of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career.
In a match where both players dominated their own service games and break points were few and far between, Dimitrov’s patience and better return game – coupled with Raonic’s mistakes (39 unforced errors to Dimitrov’s 13) – proved the difference makers.
Dimitrov’s two breaks of service also came at the best time, late in the first and third set, leaving Raonic with only scant opportunities to break back. In the final set, both players held serve throughout, with the Bulgarian once again showing his improved mental toughness and refusing to break down as he has in the past, wrapping up the match with a 12-10 tie-break win on his fifth match point.
“It’s not easy playing against Milos. You never know what’s going to come on the other side. He’s definitely one of the greatest servers out there. It’s always a bit unpredictable,” Dimitrov said after the match.
“But on my side, what I think I did good was that I hang really tough in the match. I didn’t let him take control of the rallies. You know, when I had chance to step in, I did.”
For his part, Raonic conceded that his mistakes cost him the match: “I don’t think I would really take too much back. I was doing the right things. I came in a bunch. I don’t think I executed well, but I think I had the right idea on what I needed to do.”
The two players have come through the juniors circuit together and know each other well, exchanging a quick hug at the end. Asked about it, Raonic said: “You go out there and you put it all out. I can’t be mad at the guy for beating me or anything. I’ve seen him around since juniors, since under-14s. I know him and I respect him. I told him, Good luck in the next round.”
Dimitrov will next play against Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, who served the biggest surprise of the tournament by defeating fifth-seed Juan Martin Del Potro in the second round, which he followed up with a straight-sets win against 27th-seed Benoit Paire of France.
The two have met only once before on the ATP Tour, with Bautista Agut winning in two sets on the hard courts in Beijing last year. Dimitrov and Bautista Agut have also played each other twice in the lower rungs, with one win apiece.
(Photo: Brad Touesnard/flickr.com)