After taking down Canadian No. 1, Denis Shapovalov in his Rotterdam opener, Grigor Dimitrov will attempt to get past Canada's No. 2, Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round on Wednesday.
Grigor Dimitrov vs Felix Auger-Aliassime is live from Rotterdam from 9:00pm local time/ 8:00pm GMT
Prior to his victory over Shapovalov on Monday, Dimitrov had lost his last two matches- surprising defeats to Tommy Paul in the second round of the Australian Open and Gregoire Barrere in the opening round in Montpellier- but he got back to winning ways with a competent performance against Shapovalov.
He hit just three aces and five double faults, but his serving numbers were otherwise good, as he converted 80% of points on his first serve, and 62% on his second. Dimitrov saved all three break points he faced, including a set point at 4-5, before going on to complete a 6-3 7-6 victory.
“There was not a lot of rhythm,” said Dimitrov after the match. “There were not too many rallies, but I was able to stay in control… I was calm in the important moments and came to the net when I had to, so, overall, the things that I had to do right I did very well.”
Dimitrov has generally been far from his best in the last couple of seasons, but he had a mini-revival towards the end of last year, reaching semi-finals at the US Open and the Paris Masters to get back into the top 20. He was ranked outside the top-70 prior to that Flushing Meadows run.
He made a decent start to 2020, winning two of his three singles matches at the ATP Cup, but he had below par campaigns at the Australian Open and Montpellier, and will be keen to get things back on track in Rotterdam.
The 2018 finalist will attempt to reach the quarter finals at the ATP 500 tournament for the fourth time when he faces Auger-Aliassime on Wednesday.
Auger-Aliassime overcame a second set wobble to score a 6-3 1-6 6-3 victory over big-hitting German, Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round on Tuesday.
After claiming the first set, the young Canadian had six break points in the opening game of the second set, and two more in the third game, but he couldn’t take his chances. He wandered away after that, losing five games in a row to drop the set.
Things threatened to go really bad when he slipped to 0-40 in the opening game of the deciding set, but he played five strong points to hang on to his serve. Auger-Aliassime saved two more break points at 3-3, before forcing the decisive break in the next game, and subsequently serving out the match to love.
“It was really tough, there was so many emotions running through my head,” the 19-year-old said after the match. “I felt I had chances in the first game of the second set, with the overheard, and so many chances to make the break. It was really frustrating”.
“It led me to lose focus in the second set and get broken twice, which isn’t ideal for me or normal. In the third set, it was about forgetting and moving forward. I’m really happy, it’s a really good lesson and a great win to come back after losing the set so badly.”
The world No. 21 is seeking his second quarter final of the season, having made the semis in Adelaide last month. Apart from that Adelaide run, he hasn’t had the best start to the year. He was 1-3 at the ATP Cup, lost to Ernests Gulbis in the first round of the Australian Open, and suffered a second-round defeat to Pierre-Hugues Herbert in Montpellier last week.
He will be aiming for more consistency as he attempts to back up a breakthrough 2019. The young gun began last season outside the top-100, but he charged up the rankings, reaching finals in Rio, Lyon and Stuttgart, and semi-finals in Miami and Queen’s. He peaked at No. 17 and finished at 21st in the rankings.
Can he claim back-to-back wins for only the second time this year when he faces Dimitrov on Wednesday?
Both players have had troubles with their serves in recent times- Dimitrov hit five double faults in the first round, while Auger-Aliassime struck seven- and whoever manages that shot better will go a long way towards securing a quarter final ticket.
To my mind, Dimitrov seemed more assured in his opening round, and if he can put it all together on Wednesday, I reckon he will have a bit too much guile for Auger-Aliassime. Both men are fine athletes- Dimitrov being arguably better- while the Bulgarian is also more creative with his shot-making.
Auger-Aliassime won their only previous meeting at Queen’s last year- can Dimitrov even the series on Wednesday?