Grigor Dimitrov outfought Andy Murray in their Mexican Open semi-final encounter on March 1 to secure a place in the final in Acapulco in a match that went on for nearly three hours and ended 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3).
Murray, playing in his first tournament semi-final since winning the Wimbledon last year, was evenly matched this time by a player he had defeated in their previous three encounters without dropping a set.
Early on, it appeared as if the same scenario would be repeated in Acapulco, with Murray breaking Dimitrov’s serve early and holding on to take the first frame.
In the second set, neither player had a single breakpoint, but Dimitrov shifted up a gear in the tie-break to take a 5-1 lead. Despite saving two setpoints, Murray lost the tie-break after Dimitrov’s aggressive approach forced the Briton into a forehand error.
With the score even, Dimitrov broke Murray early and held onto his advantage, but failed to close out the match early, committing several errors when serving for the match at 5-4. There were no such jitters in the tie-break, however, and Dimitrov handily won the game and match on his first matchpoint.
The win propels Dimitrov to his third career ATP Tour final – he lost to Murray in Brisbane last year, but won his first title in Stockholm at the end of 2013 against David Ferrer. His opponent in the final will be South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, playing his second final in as many weeks (he lost to Croatia’s Marin Cilic in the Delray Beach Open final last week).
Dimitrov holds a 3-1 edge over Anderson in their previous meetings, but all his wins came on grass, with the South African winning their sole meeting on hard courts, the same surface used in Acapulco. However, the duo’s last meeting was at Wimbledon in 2012 (Dimitrov won in four sets) and Dimitrov has improved significantly since then, scoring a number of wins over top-10 ranked players in that span, of which Murray is just the latest.
Dimitrov has also improved his staying power and he will need that stamina against Anderson, having played back-to-back grinders against Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis in the quarterfinal (a match that went on for two hours and 39 minutes) and Murray (two hours and 55 minutes).
(Grigor Dimitrov, photo: mirsasha/flickr.com)