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Ricky’s • 10sBalls • Best ATP Matches Of 2017: No. 3 Is Nadal vs. Dimitrov At The Australian Open

Rafael Nadal (R) of Spain at the net with Grigor Dimitrov (L) of Bulgaria whom he defeated in their Men’s Singles semifinal match at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 28 January 2017. EPA/TRACEY NEARMY

 

 

Ricky’s best ATP matches of 2017: No. 3 is Nadal vs. Dimitrov at the Australian Open

 

By Ricky Dimon

Over the past week, Ricky has been counting down his top 10 men’s matches of the year, in order from No. 10 all the way down to No. 1. It continues at No. 3, with a grueling five-set Australian Open semifinal between Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov. Nadal survived the thriller to set up a final showdown against Roger Federer…a match you may be hearing more about soon!

 

 

Australian Open semifinals: Rafael Nadal d. Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4

 

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer turned back the clock to be the dominant protagonists on the ATP World Tour throughout this season. It was only fitting that the 2017 campaign unofficially started with a major final between the two all-time greats. But Grigor Dimitrov almost had something to say about that dream title match Down Under.

 

A day earlier, Stan Wawrinka had thrown everything he had at his fellow Swiss. Dimitrov produced arguably an even more impressive performance on Friday than Wawrinka had on Thursday, but Nadal–like Federer 24 hours prior–came up with the goods time and time again in the face of his challenger’s onslaught.

 

A tense, back-and-forth first four sets did nothing to separate Nadal and Dimitrov. It was the eventual runner-up and soon-to-be world No. 1 who started fast, staying on serve by fighting off a pair of break points in the first game and then seizing a break of his own at 2-1 that would decide the set. A messier second set witnessed a total of five breaks, with Nadal twice recovering from a break down. But he had no opportunity to battle back from a third service donation, because that ended the set at 5-6.

 

The stage eventually became set for a fifth after the two competitors traded tiebreakers in the third and fourth, respectively. It was a fifth that overdosed on tension, even though it did not become the kind of marathon that the Melbourne faithful have reveled in and perhaps even expected over the past decade.

 

Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in action during his Men’s Singles semifinal match against Rafael Nadal of Spain at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 27 January 2017. EPA/JULIAN SMITH

Break points were the story. The Bulgarian fought off three right off away to hold for 1-0 before the Spaniard thwarted one as he answered his opponent’s hold. By the time it was 1-1, more than 20 minutes had elapsed. Dimitrov withstood another break point at 2-2 and Nadal held off a pair at 3-4. Finally, the 2009 Australian Open winner converted an opportunity when he blasted a backhander winner at 4-4, 30-40.

 

Nadal went on to serve it out with relatively little drama. He missed a match point at 40-30 and another on his ad, but a third chance was capitalized on when Dimitrov sent a backhand just over the baseline.

 

“I think Grigor played great,” Nadal praised. “I played great. So (it) was a great quality of tennis tonight. (It) is amazing to be through to a final of Grand Slam again here in Australia at the [start] of the year. Means a lot to me; very happy to be part of this match. I think both of us deserve to be in that final. Finally (it) was me.”

 

“I’m sure I’m going to look back at that match and see what I could have done better,” Dimitrov explained. “But at least one thing I can say is that I left it all out on the court. I’m proud of that.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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