Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, seeded third at the first tennis Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne, took less than 100 minutes to win his tournament opener, overpowering world number 226, Austria’s Dennis Novak, in straight sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-1.
Dimitrov, a semi-finalist at the Australian Open last year, when he lost an epic five-set match to Rafael Nadal, cruised through despite another day with poor first serve (55 per cent and five double faults), winning 95 points to Novak’s 57 and converting six of 14 break points.
This year’s Australian Open draw was kind to Dimitrov in the early rounds – after Novak, the Bulgarian will play another qualifier in American Mackenzie McDonald, ranked 186th in the world. In the third, Dimitrov could face 30th seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, who scored an upset straight-sets win over the Bulgarian in last year’s US Open second round.
Dimitrov’s quarter of the draw also features two other potential stumbling blocks in Australia’s Nick Kyrgios and Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Should seeding hold and the Bulgarian reach the semi-final for a second year running, his opponent could once again be world number one Nadal.
The Bulgarian has shown flashes of his ability in the past and took it to another level in 2017, winning his first Masters trophy in Cincinnati and the ATP Finals in London, but is yet to prove that he can also win consistently – another deep run in Melbourne would go some way to putting such doubts to rest.
(Photo: Brad Touesnard/flickr.com)