Dimitrov Succumbs To Nadal In Australia
Nadal Edges Dimitrov In Tough Four Set Match
Dimitrov’s run in Australia finally came to an end today when he lost to Nadal in the quarter finals 3-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-2. It was a very tight match and really until the fourth set one that Dimitrov looked capable of winning.
The first set started well for Dimitrov and he looked confident on court, Nadal on the other hand started very poorly and served up three double faults in one game to hand the early break to Dimitrov. The rest of the set went with serve and Dimitrov took it 6-3. Dimitrov’s first serve is a great shot and when it landed Nadal was having a hard job returning it. I had said I thought Dimitrov would have to win the first set to have a chance in the match and I couldn’t have asked for a better start than this.
The second set was much closer and it was Nadal who broke early to take the initiative. Nadal was still making more mistakes than usual and this allowed Dimitrov back into the set and take it to a tie break. Nadal controlled this tie break though and took it 7-3.
The third set will stick in Dimitrov’s mind as the one where he let the match get away. I didn’t think he would win over five sets, Nadal is so physically strong, realistically Dimitrov had to take this set and he had chances to do so. Despite falling a break behind he came back into the set thanks to another Nadal double fault on break point. The tie break is where Dimitrov had his best chance to win the set, a forehand down the line that just missed on set point could have changed the course of the match. Small margins make the difference and a net cord for Nadal and then another Dimitrov error meant that Nadal took the set 9-7 in the tie break.
Into the fourth set and Dimitrov’s challenge wilted a bit, physically it was always going to be difficult to outlast Nadal and so it proved, two breaks of serve were enough for Nadal to win it 6-2 and end Dimitrov’s run in Australia.
Thoughts On The Match
This was a very close match and Nadal said afterwards he felt lucky to win it, while Nadal wasn’t at his best today it was credit to Dimitrov that he came out and looked like he believed he could win from the opening game. Dimitrov served well but I would still like him to get more first serves in, his percentage today was 58, I think that needs to be higher against the best players to give himself an even better chance. Mentally is where the biggest improvements have been, he looks like a different player from the one we saw during previous years. That was always going to be the big test for Dimitrov, he has plenty of talent but his attitude hasn’t always looked the best when he is out on court. It is a big part of why he has done so poorly in slams previously. I am not sure how much of it is working with his new coach, maybe he is being allowed more freedom to play the way he wants, whatever has changed is working and he needs to take that forward into the rest of the year.
The rest of his game is in good shape as well, the backhand looked better than last year, still his weaker side but he looked like he was generating more power from it, and a one handed backhand is like a red rag to a Nadal, you know he will attack it but I thought Dimitrov stood up to it well. The Dimitrov serve as said previously is a great shot, just needs to up that first serve percentage a bit and it will make him difficult to beat.
There is still work to be done physically, as it was his first quarter final and you would have expected him to be tired, that didn’t show until the fourth set but in the future Dimitrov might have to get through best of five set matches back to back against great players if he wants to go further in these tournaments. It is something that will need to be worked on although there is time until the next slam so hopefully we see that fitness improve even more before the French Open.
Although I am disappointed he lost the match it has been a great tournament for Dimitrov and one that should give him lots of confidence for the rest of the year. He has come through some tricky matches and always looked confident in his ability. After todays match he said the following
“I’m a bit shattered,” said an emotional Dimitrov in his press conference. “It’s tough losing that match, my first quarter-final. I came out expecting nothing less than to win.
It is great to hear him talk so positively, expecting to win against someone like Nadal shows how far he has come and it isn’t just soundbites, he looks far more confident on court, his body language is different. If he carries on like this then it should be a great year and I am very confident he will add to his one ATP title from Stockholm.