After lifting the ATP Finals trophy in London last year, Grigor Dimitrov spoke of taking the next step and challenging for his first career Grand Slam title in 2018. That will have to wait until next year after back-to-back first-round exits at Wimbledon and the US Open brought an end to Dimitrov’s torrid summer.
Both times, Dimitrov was in part undone by the luck of the draw, with three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, who had sunk in the ATP Tour standings due to persistent injury problems, as his first-round opponent.
After winning their previous four meetings, Dimitrov should not have been awed by the occasion, but both times the Bulgarian fell short in the key moments of what were otherwise evenly-poised matches.
In New York, that included a double fault to hand Wawrinka the crucial break in the first set, a wasted triple break point early in the third and, later, failing to close out the frame despite serving for the set with new balls.
The loss brings Dimitrov’s record for the summer of 2018 to 4-5, including a third-round exit at the Cincinnati Masters, where he was defending the title he won last year.
He now finds himself in danger of missing the cut for this year’s ATP Finals, having accumulated only 1690 points so far this season. Austria’s Dominic Thiem, who currently holds the last qualifying position in ATP’s “race to London”, has 3005.
(Fans crowd the grounds at the 2018 US Open. Photo: USTA/Andrew Ong)