After a shaky start, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the second time in his career, ending the fairytale run of Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin in four sets 2-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-2, 6-1.
Istomin produced the biggest shock of the tournament by defeating six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the second round in a five-set match, which he followed up with another five-set win, over Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, and gave every sign of his intention to continue adding to his collection of wins over seeded players in Melbourne.
He blitzed his way to take the first set with two breaks of service, with Dimitrov seemingly unable to get into a rhythm and offer much to counter whatever his opponent, ranked more than 100 spots below, threw at him.
But the Bulgarian recovered in the second set, improving his serve delivery and making good use of the net, to force a tie-break, where he took an early lead and never looked back.
Istomin’s earlier five-set heroics appeared to have taken their toll at the start of the third set and he required repeated medical assistance on-court, while Dimitrov pressed his advantage against an opponent that looked to have lost much of his mobility. The Bulgarian breezed through the last two sets as Istomin’s winners became scarce and his unforced errors shot up.
Dimitrov returns to the final eight of the Australian Open for the first time since 2014, his break-out year, when he won three titles and reached the Wimbledon semis, as well as briefly breaking into the ATP Tour top 10.
After see-sawing through the rankings in recent years, he appears back to the same level of play, starting 2017 with a winning streak of nine matches and counting, as well as capturing his first title in two and a half years, earlier this month in Brisbane.
His next opponent is Belgium’s David Goffin, the 11th seed, against whom Dimitrov has a pristine career record, defeating him three times on the Challenger circuit (all in 2010) and in their only ATP Tour meeting at the 2014 US Open, although Goffin was ranked outside the top 50 at the time.
(Photo: Brad Touesnard/flickr.com)