Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov fought back from being a set down, twice, to win his third-round match against Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov in a five-set thriller that ended 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 after just under three hours of play.
For the first four sets, there was little to separate the two players, as Dimitrov and Dolgopolov each had their periods of ascendance, but never for long enough to put down their opponent for good.
The match once again showed Dimitrov’s improved mental toughness and physical endurance – both a result of hiring Australian Roger Rasheed as his coach in October last year; since teaming with Rasheed, Dimitrov has won four ATP Tour titles, including three this year, all on different surfaces.
Facing a decisive set, Dimitrov powered through in just 18 minutes in the final frame, whereas he often wilted under similar pressure in previous years (he is 11-2 in deciding sets so far this year, according to the ATP Tour website).
“The only thing I could do was stay in there and fight, but as soon as I got that break in the fifth set I knew I could close it out at last,” he said after the match. “I just felt physically very strong and I knew that the longer the match went the better chance I had of winning it.”
It is this improvement so far this year that makes the Bulgarian the bookmakers’ dark-horse favourite – outside the “big four” of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, each of whom have won The Championships title at least once in their career – ahead of even Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka.
It was at the Australian Open that Dimitrov recorded his best performance in a Grand Slam tournament, falling in four sets to Nadal in the quarterfinals. He now stands a good chance of repeating that feat, facing Argentine Leonardo Mayer, the world number 64, who won his third-round match earlier in the day.
And should Dimitrov make the quarterfinal, it would likely set up a meeting against defending champion Murray in a match eagerly awaited since the Wimbledon draw was announced last week, pitting two of the most in-form players on grass against each other.
(Photo of Wimbledon Centre Court: Paul Campy/flickr.com)