Dimitrov Halts Kyrgios Comeback To Reach Quarter-Finals
It was one of the highly anticipated matches of the Australian Open and it certainly did not disappoint. Grigor Dimitrov ended Australia’s hopes of a home champion with a thrilling 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4) win over Nick Kyrgios at Melbourne Park on Sunday.
Dimitrov and Kyrgios put their world-class talents on display in a primetime showdown and fans were treated with a pulsating clash between two of the game's brightest stars. The 2017 Australian Open semi-finalist extended his record over home players at Grand Slams to 6-2 with the win, which puts the Bulgarian to within three matches of a first Grand Slam title. The 26-year-old won 80 per cent of points behind his first serve and overcame 36 aces from Kyrgios in the three-hour, 26-minute battle on Rod Laver Arena.
"It was nice," Dimitrov said about the match. "As expected, obviously. Playing against the home boy, I think it's always that way. I think everything was great. Great atmosphere tonight. Nice to play in such good conditions. The court played nice. There was no wind. It was not hot. It was not cold. It was just a great match for tennis tonight.
"I learned that I can switch to another gear when I really need it. I think this is something that I have been struggling obviously this tournament. The first couple of rounds or even the three first rounds I was not striking the ball well. I know that, but I was still clutch on the important moments, which was good.
"But today I was just able to overtake my game completely differently, having a high percentage in the first serve, high percentage on the return. Being able to play my game a little bit more, counting a little bit more on my strongest weapons, and I think that was a good step forward for me."
The World No. 3 will play Kyle Edmund in the quarter-finals. Dimitrov leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-0, having beat Edmund in three sets just two weeks ago at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp.
"It was a tough match," Kyrgios added. "Obviously I knew it was always going to be tough. He's been playing great. I think with him, he hasn't even found his best form yet and he's still getting through all those matches, which is pretty frightening. I think once he finds his feet and he has more confidence, he's got a real chance at winning it.
"I was only a couple points in it. It wasn't like I got demolished out there or anything. I had a lot of chances to win the match and I just came up short. Obviously it's frustrating but it is what it is."
The first set saw no breaks of serve. Kyrgios saved the only three break points of the set in the sixth game, before a tie-break went the way of the Bulgarian. Dimitrov established a 5/2 lead before eventually capturing the set on a Kyrgios double fault.
Dimitrov broke his Australian opponent to establish a 4-3 lead and served for a two-set lead at 5-4 but Kyrgios fought back to force a second-set tie-break. Once again, the two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist would prevail. Dimitrov went 3/1 ahead, but Kyrgios rallied to level at 4/4 before Dimitrov raised his game once more at the vital moment to take a firm hold of the match with a two-set lead.
Faced with the task of coming back from two sets down for the third time in his career, Kyrgios saved a break point in his opening service game of the third set to tie the score at 1-1. Three games later, the Australian No. 1 moved onto the front foot, breaking the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion to 15 for a 3-2 lead.
Kyrgios served well throughout the set, substantially improving his success rate behind his second serve and had a chance to break for the set at 3-5. The chance would go amiss, but in the following game, the 22-year-old served the set out to love to kick-start a potential comeback.
At 15/40 in the fourth game of the fourth set, Dimitrov had two chances to regain the momentum from Kyrgios, who scored his first win over Dimitrov just two weeks ago in Brisbane, but could not convert. Kyrgios, lifted by the escape, built on his success by creating a break point of his own in the next game. But, this time, Dimitrov had the perfect response with a booming serve out wide before holding for a 3-2 lead.
The match looked to be decided when Kyrgios netted a smash from a Dimitrov backhand lob to hand the Bulgarian an opportunity to serve for the match at 5-3. But as we saw in the second set, nothing is a given. Krygios broke to 15 to stay in the tournament and held for 5-5 before reaching a third tie-break in four sets.
The tie-break went with serve until the change of ends at 3-3, but Dimitrov established a lead in the following point, forcing one more shot out of the Australian who offered up the error. Clinical winners on the forehand and up at the net brought up three match points and the second was taken by Dimitrov courtesy of an emphatic forehand, cross-court passing shot winner.
"I just told myself, okay, you've gone this far, now is the part you need to kind of start enjoying a little bit more and live in the moment," said Dimitrov. "You never know how many times you're going to be able to come out on Rod Laver Arena and just play. That itself gives me the motivation and that kind of kick, hey, man, you're here now. Just play.
"I have won quite a few matches in the past years, and I have a lot of respect coming out to play on the big stage. I mean, I respect my team, I respect the people that are watching. I think that is a great part of the game that I just love. And again, when you come to those matches, I just want to stay in that moment and just fight and do whatever it takes in order for me to win. When you put all that together, just things started to flow, and I think that's one way of seeing things."
Dimitrov, who has won 11 out of 12 matches since the start of the Nitto ATP Finals, is now one win away from reaching back-to-back Australian Open semi-finals. Last year, Rafael Nadal narrowly defeated the Bulgarian in five sets at the final four stage.