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Dimitrov Picks Up Four-Set Win Over Rublev At Australian Open 2018 To Avenge U.S. Open Loss 2017

Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in reaction against Andrey Rublev of Russia during round three on day five of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 19 January 2018. EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH



By Ricky Dimon


A couple of youngsters got the best of two top players at last summer’s U.S. Open, with Denis Shapovalov taking down Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andrey Rublev upsetting Grigor Dimitrov. The relative veterans were not about to let lightning strike twice in Melbourne.


After Tsonga avenged his loss to Shapovalov on Wednesday, Dimitrov turned the tables on Rublev with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory in the third round of the Australian Open on Friday evening. Despite not being quite at his very best like he was this last fall when he captured the title at the Nitto ATP Finals, Dimitrov overcame an abysmal serving day to prevail in three hours and four minutes.


Andrey Rublev of Russia in action during his third round match against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 19 January 2018. EPA-EFE/MARK CRISTINO

There were plenty of momentum swings in the Dimitrov-Rublev rematch, contrary to what the relative straightforward scoreline might suggest. In fact, all of the first three sets were won by the player who initially trailed by a break of serve. Dimitrov bounced back from behind to take the first third set, while Rublev’s second-set success came following an early 2-0 hole.


Even the fourth set provided plenty of pressure-packed moments even though just a single service break in Dimitrov’s favor was enough to make the difference. The 20-year-old failed to convert break points in the sixth and 10th games, but he also did well to fight off break points in each of his first three service games to stay within striking distance throughout the fourth. A huge hold by Dimitrov 5-4 in which he saved two break points pushed him past the finish line.


It was a fitting end to the contest: Dimitrov struggling on serve, double-faulting every which way, but surviving. The third seed was plagued by 15 total double-faults throughout the battle.


“I’m not going to give any excuses right now,” Dimitrov said in his post-match press conference. “It was just not a good day for me serving-wise. I tried to change the way I was tossing the ball or serving throughout the whole match, but just didn’t work; just didn’t work. I have to accept it and move on. Fifteen double-faults–that’s absolutely unacceptable.


“When [a shot] fails you, you kind of go on to the next one. (The) serve, for example, failed me. (So) what are the other options? The one thing I’m very happy with is I feel I have a big arsenal of tools to kind of deal with any circumstances out there. That gives me a bit of an advantage.”


Dimitrov’s variety is exactly what got him through against Rublev–and the lack of it was exactly why he lost to the Russian last summer. In NYC, Dimitrov tried to beat the underdog at his own game: big hitting, bigger hitting, biggest hitting. He also directed far too many shots at the Rublev forehand. This time, Dimitrov mixed in a whole arsenal of slices–almost all of which were slithered to Rublev’s backhand.


It worked. And it worked so well that he managed to beat a red-hot opponent (Rublev finished runner-up in Doha earlier in January) despite coming off a grueling five-set thriller against qualifier Mackenzie McDonald on Wednesday.


“I recovered well,” Dimitrov explained. “Obviously today was another tough test for me. I just had to find a way again; simple as that. At least the game was a little bit better than the previous match. Yeah, I just played out there today…. I was happy that everything went my way.”


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

Grigor Dimitrov (R) of Bulgaria and Andrey Rublev (L) of Russia greet each other after their third round match at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 19 January 2018. EPA-EFE/MARK CRISTINO

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