Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov will start his first ATP tournament as the top seed in Bucharest on April 23, when he meets Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely in the second round of the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy.
Dimitrov was reportedly offered a late invite from tournament organisers and accepted, as he prepares for next month’s French Open. Last year, Dimitrov went out in the third round at Roland Garros, his best performance to date in Paris, but will surely seek to improve his record in Grand Slams and build up following the quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open earlier this year.
Although best known for his prowess on the hard court, the surface on which he has won his two career titles, Dimitrov’s career wins percentage on clay, the surface used in Bucharest, is actually marginally better. His best performance in an ATP Masters tournament has also come on clay, at last year’s Monte-Carlo Open, where he reached the quarterfinals.
This year, he lost a round earlier in Monte Carlo, to Spaniard David Ferrer, resulting in a two-place drop in the ATP Tour rankings to 16th – Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny, the second seed in Bucharest, is actually one spot above Dimitrov in the rankings, but the seeding was based on earlier rankings.
It is a first for Dimitrov to go in as the favourite to win in an ATP tournament – he was the seventh-seed in Stockholm last year, when he won his first career title, and fourth in Acapulco earlier this year, when he won his second.
His main rivals in Bucharest are expected to be Youzhny and two Frenchmen, world number 24 Gael Montfils and world number 28 Gilles Simon. Dimitrov has never played Youzhny before and lost all five meetings against Montfils (one) and Simon (four), although all of them came before 2013, when the Bulgarian improved his game and surged up the ATP rankings.