Budding talent Grigor Dimitrov is through to his first ever Grand Slam quarter-final, where he will now clash with top seed Rafael Nadal for a spot in the final four of the Australian Open. The two have met three times on the professional tour, dating back to their first encounter in 2009, with the Spaniard leading the head-to-head series with a perfect 3-0 record. Considering Dimitrov’s vast improvements since their last meeting, this should be a highly entertaining match-up, which promises a slightly varying result.
While Nadal may have reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne without dropping a single set, his fourth round victory over Kei Nishikori was far from simple. The Japanese No. 1 refused to allow Nadal any advantages in the match and remained competitive until the final point of the match, which ended 7-6, 7-5, 7-6. The world No. 1 hit 12 aces and 36 winners but also managed 28 unforced errors, which allowed him to drop serve on four different occasions throughout the match. Rafa needed to produce some of his finest tennis to break back from down in both the second and third set to leave victorious that night.
“[Nishikori] played a fantastic match, in my opinion,” said Nadal. ” Just a few mistakes in some moments that were tough ones. But for the rest of the match he played very aggressively and he went for his shots. He came on court with the determination to take the ball very early and go for winners.”
The Spaniard was also dealt an unusual number of time violations for needing more than 20 seconds to serve. He also received a coaching violation when he did not even appear to be listening. While he did not admit it in the post-match interview, it clearly bothered the top seed as he attempted to serve through his own service games.
Next for Nadal is potential classic against Bulgarian No. 1 Grigor Dimitrov, who has been in fantastic form since the start of the season. After going 1-1 in the Brisbane International event, Dimitrov arrived in Melbourne and began working his way through the draw, picking up victories over Yen-Hsun Lu, Milos Raonic and Roberto Bautista Agut to become the youngest player to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final since Nishikori in 2012.
Now only was it Dimitrov’s first ever Grand Slam quarter-final appearance, it was the first time a Bulgarian athlete reaches that stage of a major championship. He needed two hours and 24 minutes and four breaks of serve to dispatch of Spain’s Bautista Agut 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 and set up the fantastic clash against the world No. 1.
“I’m really looking forward to that match,” said Dimitrov. “I just want to put myself into a good position to play matches like that more often. So that’s what I’m working for and this is what I’m aiming for.”
Nadal and Dimitrov have met on three previous occasions on the professional tour, with the young Bulgarian yet to win a match. While this may be the case, he has managed to take a set of Nadal in each of the three encounters, which adds to the belief that he could be a significant threat to the former Australian Open champion in their Wednesday encounter. The world No. 22 will need to focus on decreasing his unforced errors and returning Nadal’s serves convincingly.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Four Sets