Former world No. 3, Grigor Dimitrov attempts to reach consecutive tour-level semi-finals for the first time since February 2017 when he takes on Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik in Chengdu on Friday.
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Dimitrov is looking to continue his resurgence, which started the US Open, where he defeated Roger Federer en route the semi-finals. Prior to the US Open, the Bulgarian had not made a semi-final all season, and had won just one of his previous eight matches heading into Flushing Meadows, but the 28-year-old caught a desperately needed break in New York, making the last four before falling to the excellent Daniil Medvedev.
Dimitrov reached No. 3 in the world after claiming the Nitto ATP Finals title at the end of 2017- his biggest career title- but the anticipated push never happened, with the Bulgarian regressing
in the 2018 season, finishing at No. 19, and sliding even further in 2019. The eight-time ATP Tour titlist made an okay start to the season, reaching the quarter finals in Brisbane and the fourth round at the Australian Open, but he won just seven matches in his next 13 tournaments, without making a single quarter final, and was down at a lowly 78th in the rankings at the start of the US Open.
However, he made a big jump after his Flushing Meadows run, rising to No. 25 in the world. Playing his first match since the US Open, Dimitrov took out Great Britain’s Daniel Evans 7-5 7-5 in his Chengdu opener- the Bulgarian fighting back from 1-4 down in the second set to take the win in straight sets. He struck eight aces and won 80% of points on his first serve saving three of the four break points he faced in an overall solid performance.
Next up for the former world No. 3 in a quarter final meeting with Alexander Bublik on Friday. Bublik is seeking his second tour-level semi-final of the season, the other being in Newport, where he was runner-up to John Isner.
Apart from that Newport run, he had been quiet on the tour, managing just the five main draw wins before this week’s Chengdu Open. The 22-year-old reached the third round of the US Open, having earlier won one match in each of Miami, Roland Garros and Washington- while he lost opening matches at Queens, Wimbledon, Atlanta, Winston-Salem and St. Petersburg.
He has far greater joy on the Challenger Tour, winning titles in Budapest, Pau and Monterrey. The Kazakh, who first reached the world’s top 100 in September 2017 but was out of that bracket for the whole of 2018, was back to a double-digit ranking in April this year, re-entering the top-100 after winning the Monterrey Challenger. He peaked at a personal best of 69th after making the third round of the US Open, and entered Chengdu just two spots lower at 71st.
Bublik opened his Chengdu campaign with a hard-fought 4-6 7-5 7-5 victory over American, Taylor Fritz before taking down Jordan Thompson 6-4 7-5 in the second round. The world No. 71 served a combined 38 aces in those two matches- 25 against Fritz, and 13 against Thompson. He won over 80% of points on his first serve in both matches, and had lost his serve on just two occasions.
His serve has laid the foundation for this Chengdu run, and needless to say, that shot must fire again if he is to take down Grigor Dimitrov on Friday in the first meeting between the two players.
That said, Dimitrov remains favourite for this one. The Bulgaria is still short of his 2017 best, but the confidence is gradually flowing back, and we know what a talented all-round player he is when he is feeling good about his game.