Rain & Defending Champ Dimitrov? No Problem For Djokovic
Rain nor defending champion Grigor Dimitrov were able to stop Novak Djokovic from continuing his pursuit of a first Western & Southern Open title.
The former World No. 1 returned to the court Friday with a break lead in the third set after rain halted play Thursday evening, maintaining that advantage to defeat the Bulgarian 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Djokovic continues his push for the one ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title he has not yet won, despite reaching the final five times in Cincinnati. He now owns 29 victories at the event, passing former World No.1 Lleyton Hewitt for the most at the tournament in the Open Era without lifting the trophy.
The Serbian has been victorious in 24 of his past 28 matches after a 6-6 start to the 2018 campaign. But for a moment on Thursday, it appeared that Djokovic would be leaving Cincinnati early, trailing Dimitrov by a set and a break, with little rhythm from the baseline. The Serbian did not let the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion run away with the match, though, digging in and significantly cutting down his number of unforced errors, using his backhand down the line to great effect.
Dimitrov was trying to build off the momentum of a quarter-final showing at the Rogers Cup, and was also pursuing his third Top 10 victory of the season.
Marin Cilic, who triumphed in Cincinnati two years ago, also survived a rain-delayed three-setter on Friday afternoon. The Croatian battled past Toronto semi-finalist Karen Khachanov 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4 after two hours, 41 minutes over two days.
The seventh seed has now won eight consecutive matches at this event after missing last year's tournament due to an abductor injury. This will be his third quarter-final in Ohio, also reaching the last eight in 2012 before losing to Djokovic. While he could not convert on his first six break points against Khachanov, Cilic took advantage of his lone opportunity in the decider to advance to a meeting against 13th seed Pablo Carreno Busta.
The Spaniard was one of only two players (also Raonic) who completed their third-round match on Thursday. Cilic leads the pair's FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-0, dropping just one of their previous eight sets.