Major Showdown: Can Dimitrov Oust In-Form Kyrgios?
In the years to come, Grigor Dimitrov and Nick Kyrgios may meet for Grand Slam titles. But on Sunday, two of the most talented players on the ATP World Tour will face off for a spot in the quarter-finals at the Australian Open.
Dimitrov won what was at the time the biggest title of his career at last August's Western & Southern Open by defeating Kyrgios — claiming his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. However, Kyrgios has arguably seized momentum in the rivalry — despite trailing in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 1-2 — ahead of their enticing encounter.
Just two weeks ago, Kyrgios won his first ATP World Tour title in his home country, Australia, at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp. And in the semi-finals, he came back from a set down to defeat the in-form 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion, Dimitrov.
"He played a pretty solid first set. I played a pretty loose game to get broken,” Kyrgios said at the time. “Pretty much from then on, I felt pretty in control of the match."
FedExATP Head2Head: Grigor Dimitrov vs. Nick Kyrgios
|2018||Brisbane International presented by Suncorp||Nick Kyrgios||SF||3-6, 6-1, 6-4|
|2017||Western & Southern Open||Grigor Dimitov||F||6-3, 7-5|
|2015||BNP Paribas Open||Grigor Dimitov||R64||7-6(2), 3-6, 7-6(4)|
The Canberra native struck 19 aces and claimed 82 percent of his first-serve points, playing with a clear aggression that took the match off of Dimitrov’s racquet.
"Sometimes when there's no way out, you try to change up the game and break the rhythm of a player. And today just everything, whatever I thought he tried, it was just great," Dimitrov said. "He deserved to win today."
Now, the World No. 3 is the player who has to find an answer for Kyrgios’ game, which has thrilled the Australian crowd in the tournament’s first week. The 22-year-old defeated his idol and fan favourite, 2008 Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in four sets Friday evening to gather plenty of momentum heading into the showdown.
“I feel like my level is there,” Kyrgios said. “He's had a couple great wins this week. I know it's going to be tough. He loves the five-set format. He loves playing marathons. He's played well here in the past. I know it's going to be incredibly tough, but I'm not going to think about it right now.”
It is hard to imagine the third seed bringing anything but his best. After getting pushed to 8-6 in a fifth set against Mackenzie McDonald in the second round, Dimitrov improved in a four-set third-round victory over #NextGenATP Russian Andrey Rublev. The dynamic right-hander is prepared for his opponent and Kyrgios’ home crowd.
“I've played against the local, so to speak, all that. That's part of the game,” Dimitrov said. “I'm very excited to just play, to go out there and compete. I appreciate my wins now. To get to play another day, I mean, this itself should get you already in a different mindset coming into whoever you [have] got to play.
Dimitrov has proven his prowess in the big moments on Rod Laver Arena, where the fourth-round match will be played. The Bulgarian pushed current World No. 1 Rafael Nadal to five sets in a four-hour, 56-minute semi-final last year that Eurosport commentator John McEnroe called the “match of his life”.
“It's for sure one of the best matches I ever played,” Dimitrov said on Friday. “Absolutely.”
Will he be able to conjure such an effort again when he faces the in-form home favourite?
The world will soon find out.