Grigor Dimitrov’s run at the Australian Open came to an end against world number one Rafael Nadal at the quarterfinal stage, but their latest encounter only enhanced his reputation as a player that can push Nadal to his limits.
In three previous occasions, Dimitrov has always managed to win a set off Nadal and this time was no different, with the Bulgarian 22nd-seed winning every single point he hit in on his first serve, including eight aces, to win the first frame 6-3. It was the first set Nadal dropped in the tournament so far.
Nadal surged back in the second as point rallies got increasingly longer and, after the two exchanged service breaks early on, won the tie-break after Dimitrov spotted him an early lead with some unforced mistakes.
The third set followed the same script, only it was Nadal who had to fend off Dimitrov’s break points this time. Once again, the frame went to a tie-break, where the Bulgarian appeared to have the upper hand and even had a set point.
But several mistakes on Dimitrov’s forehand later, Nadal was off the hook and the Bulgarian never really appeared to recover, losing the fourth set 2-6.
After the match, Nadal said that fortune was on his side in that third-set tie-break and praised his opponent, saying that Dimitrov had “everything to become a great champion”.
A visibly distraught Dimitrov said that this was “nice to hear” from an opponent that he had “tons of respect” for, but made it clear that he was not satisfied with the deepest into a Grand Slam tournament so far in his career.
“I appreciate what he said, of course. But I think I still have a long way to go out there and I need to improve. I need to improve every day. I felt that, you know, those two weeks, even though I haven’t played my best tennis throughout the whole weeks, I still felt I’ve improved,” he said.
“But of course, I mean, I have areas. I know I have areas that I can definitely improve even more. I think it’s just what I have right now is still work in progress. When I come out on the court or in the gym every day, I don’t work for the day after. I look in the future.”
(Photo: Brad Touesnard/flickr.com)