© Peter Staples/ATP World Tour

Grigor Dimitrov will try to reach the fourth round in Roland Garros for the first time.

Dimitrov Escapes Past Cramping Donaldson

2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion matches his best showing at Roland Garros

Grigor Dimitrov might not have had the clay-court season he had envisioned before Roland Garros – the Bulgarian reached just one semi-final, at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. But the fourth seed has fought his way through the early rounds in Paris.

Dimitrov withstood an aggressive effort from American Jared Donaldson on Wednesday, coming back from two sets to one down to beat the 21-year-old 6-7(2), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 in four hours and 20 minutes. The Bulgarian served from behind in the fifth set, but kept his focus as Donaldson struggled with cramps and took his chances while returning.

It's great to win a match in five sets. I think it stays with you, you keep it, and especially on clay and out here at [Roland Garros]... It was one of those matches that I didn't play my best, but I managed a way to win. And when one thing wasn't going well, the physical part was great,” Dimitrov said.

He reaches the Round of 32 for the third time in Paris, matching his best showing (2013, l. Djokovic; 2017, l. Carreno Busta). Dimitrov also celebrates Grand Slam match win No. 50. He'll go for his first fourth round in Paris against Fernando Verdasco.

The Spaniard spent four hours and 22 minutes on the court during his first-round match, beating Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-5. But on Wednesday, the 34-year-old Verdasco took the quick route to the Round of 32, sweeping Guido Andreozzi of Argentina 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in two hours. Verdasco will try to reach the Round of 16 for the second consecutive year and the seventh time overall (2007-10, '14, '17).

Watch Dimitrov Push The Limits During Off-Season Training

Donaldson, a 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier, had never won a match at Roland Garros before this fortnight, having lost on his debut last year (Herbert). He had been 0-3 against Top 5 opponents as well.

But aggressive returning and attacking tennis had given him a two-sets-to-one lead as he rifled returns at Dimitrov's feet. Donaldson won 73 per cent of Dimitrov's second-serve points in the third set.

But Dimitrov earned the early break in the fourth – the only break point of the set – when Donaldson hit a forehand long, and the Bulgarian sailed the rest of the way to force a decider.

Dimitrov had played four times as many five-setters as Donaldson (12 to 3). But Donaldson had won his first five-set match on Sunday against Brasil Open finalist Nicolas Jarry, and the American didn't fade.

Read More: Donaldson, A Future Investment Banker?

He was two points from the match – leading 6-5, 30/0 against Dimitrov's serve – but the Bulgarian won four straight points to tie it up again. Cramping soon hampered Donaldson.

At 6-6, 40/30, the American, reminiscent of countryman Michael Chang against Ivan Lendl in the 1989 Roland Garros fourth round, underarmed his serve to Dimitrov. It worked – Dimitrov sailed the return long – and Donaldson, struggling to push off his left leg, saw the trainer.

I know how it is to feel like you're cramping. So I guess he just wanted to find some other way, and that was that. I think it was very smart for him to do that,” Dimitrov said of the underarm serve, which he had tried himself when he was a junior.

Donaldson had spurts of good play, but he couldn't sustain them during the final stretch. Dimitrov served for the match at 8-7, and Donaldson broke back. But Dimitrov then won the final two games, clinching the second-round match with a hold to love.

Visit Official Roland-Garros Website

More stories like this in: