Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov begins the defence of his title in Stockholm against Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili, the world number 59, on October 15. The two have met once, in Houston in 2011, with Gabashvili winning in straight sets.
Last year, Dimitrov won his first career title in Sweden with an upset of David Ferrer in the final, but his ascent through the rankings this year means he is seeded second only to Tomas Berdych at the 2014 If Stockholm Open.
After a strong summer season saw Dimitrov break into the top 10, peaking at eighth, the Bulgarian has had a less impressive time on the ATP Tour’s Asian swing earlier this month, losing to Novak Djokovic in the Beijing Open quarterfinal and to Julien Benneteau in the second round of the Shanghai Open.
Dimitrov’s run to the Wimbledon semi-finals, alongside the three titles he won in the first half of the year, put him in contention for a place at the ATP World Tour finals in London, but his fourth-round exit at the US Open, combined with the rise of Croatia’s Marin Cilic and Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the two surprise finalists in the last Grand Slam of the year, have pushed Dimitrov down to 11th in the qualification race.
He would need to successfully defend the title in Stockholm to stay in the race and then a strong showing in the last two events of this year – in Basel and then the Paris Masters – to secure a spot in London.
(Dimitrov poses with the Stockholm trophy in October 2013. Photo: www.stockholmopen.se)