Grigor Dimitrov starts his bid for the Montpellier title on Wednesday when he takes on Frenchman, Gregoire Barrere in the second round.
Dimitrov is back in action for the first time since the Australian Open, where he suffered a very disappointing second round loss to American, Tommy Paul.
There had been cautious optimism around Dimitrov heading into Melbourne, following a decent run in the ATP Cup, where won two of his three singles matches. The former world No. 3 defeated Daniel Evans and Radu Albot, before losing to David Goffin in his final round robin match at the inaugural team competition.
The optimism had also stemmed from an encouraging finish to last season, with the Bulgarian reaching semi-finals at the US Open and the Paris Masters within the final five months of the 2019 campaign.
Up until that US Open run, Dimitrov’s form had been forgettable. The 28-year-old had not made a quarter final since the opening week of the season in Brisbane, and had won just three matches in the 10 tournaments leading up to Flushing Meadows.
He entered the US Open at No. 78 in the rankings, but he arrested his free fall in spectacular style in New York, beating Roger Federer en route an unlikely semi-final. Dimitrov had a few more quiet weeks after the US Open, but he ended the year on a high, reaching the Paris Masters semi-finals to earn a year-end ranking of 20th.
Following a difficult couple of seasons, the Bulgarian will hope to produce his best form on a more regular basis in 2020. The start has been indifferent- can he inject some life into his season by going deep in Montpellier? He begins his tournament against Frenchman, Barrere on Wednesday.
Barrere earned his spot in the second round with a 6-2 7-6 victory over Portugal’s Joao Sousa on Monday.
Serving six aces and winning over 60% of points on both his first and second serves, the 25-year-old took down Sousa in an hour and 48 minutes. He was clutch on the big points, saving four consecutive set points from 2-6 in the second set tie break, and fending off seven of eight break points in the match.
Like Dimitrov, Barrere is also coming off a second round run at the Australian Open, where he defeated Egyptian, Mohammed Safwat for his first tour-level main draw win of the season, before falling to Guido Pella in the second round. Prior to the Australian Open, he had suffered first round defeats in Doha and Adelaide to Jeremy Chardy and Sam Querrey respectively.
At 25, Barrere is a bit of a late developer. He didn’t crack the top-100 until September 2019, following a second-round run at the US Open. He reached the second round in three of the four majors last year (Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows), while he also made the quarter finals in Metz. Also playing a big role in his rise were his results in the Challenger events, which included title runs in Quimper and Lille, and a runner-up finish in Orleans. Barrere ended the year at No. 82 in the world, just two spots shy of his career-high mark, and entered this week’s event in Montpellier at 91st in the rankings.
Wednesday’s encounter will be the first between Dimitrov and Barrere, and while Dimitrov should have too much know-how for the Frenchman on paper, the Bulgarian has habitually faltered at unexpected stages over the last couple of seasons, which gives Barrere a shot at the upset.