Dimitrov Snaps Title Drought In Brisbane
Grigor Dimitrov’s late-season resurgence in 2016 continues unabated in early 2017. The Bulgarian snapped a two-and-a-half year title drought Sunday at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp, defeating third seed Kei Nishikori 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in the final.
Dimitrov’s title run included three consecutive Top 10 scalps: Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals, top seed Milos Raonic in the semis and Nishikori in the final. Having lost his past four ATP World Tour finals, he finally claimed his fifth career title, his first since Queen’s Club in 2014.
A former World No. 8, Dimitrov saw his Emirates ATP Ranking slip to No. 40 midway through 2016 before a heart-to-heart career reflection with coach Dani Vallverdu saw the 25 year old turn around his career and finish the year at No. 17.
"It is one of the big moments for me," said Dimitrov, who claimed his first win over Nishikori in four FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters. "It's been quite a few months for me on and off the court. I think that was an emotional win for me, but at the same time, it wasn't unexpected. I have put in the work. I think I have learned a lot. I have gone through some serious work and I have just been working on myself on and off the court.
"I think at some point, things need to start giving back to you a little bit. I just feel that I feel fortunate enough to be in the final, to be so healthy and to being obviously in such a shape. But at the same time, I'm pretty humbled, because I have set myself quite high goals for the first six months and one of them was actually to win a tournament. And it happened during the first week of the year, which makes things definitely look a lot more positive for me."
After splitting the first two sets in a battle played largely from the baseline, Dimitrov and Nishikori were locked in a tight decider until the Bulgarian broke open the match in the eighth game. With Nishikori ahead 30/15 on serve, seventh seed Dimitrov proceeded to win the last seven points of the match to close it out after one hour and 49 minutes.
The World No. 17 fired seven aces and captured three of five break chances in total, while turning aside five of seven faced. Also the runner-up in Brisbane in 2013 (l. to Murray), Dimitrov improved to 14-4 in the Australian city. He takes home 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $77,980 in prize money.
"I think it was great week to start of the year," Nishikori said. "I had four good matches here. I will try to stay healthy next week and hope I can be ready [for the Australian Open]."
The Japanese fell to 11-10 in ATP World Tour finals, dropping his fifth consecutive title match since completing a four-peat in Memphis last February. He earns 150 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $41,070 in prize money for his efforts.
"I don't know how I got the second set, because it was hurting at two-all and 3-2," Nishikori added, referring to a hip injury sustained during the week. "I think he had a couple easy mistakes and that helped me to get the two breaks. In the third set I think he was playing better. I had a couple bad decisions and he played another good level in the third."