ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov takes on Frenchman Jeremy Chardy for a place in the Miami Open fourth round. Dimitrov has had a mixed start to the season, reaching the quarterfinals in Melbourne and the final in Rotterdam, but is yet to win a title and has suffered some frustrating early losses. Chardy had a fine week in Indian Wells, making the fourth round where he gave Federer a good match. But who will come out on top in this one?
Dimitrov and Chardy have met four times on Tour so far in their careers, with Dimitrov leading the head-to-head three matches to one. Chardy won the first, seven years ago on the clay courts of Roland Garros in the first round 6-2 6-4 6-4. Dimitrov had his revenge a year later at the Australian Open, winning a thrilling first round clash in five sets 4-6 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-4 to reach the second round in Melbourne.
Their next meeting came three years later in Brisbane in the round of 16. Chardy made the better start, winning the first set, but Dimitrov levelled the match in the second. With neither man able to make a breakthrough the decider went to a tiebreak, which Dimitrov won in thrilling fashion 10-8. They met most recently at the 2016 US Open in the second round. Chardy again won the first set, as he had in all their previous encounters, but lost in five as Dimitrov came back to win 4-6 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-2.
Path to the third round
Dimitrov, as a seed, received a bye into the second round where he began his campaign against Maximilien Marterer. The Bulgarian had been realistic about where his game was at, saying he did not expect to challenge for the title. That looked to be the case when after a poor start he dropped the first set 4-6 to the German. But Dimitrov’s quality eventually told and the world #4 played some fine tennis to turn the match around, eventually winning 4-6 6-2 6-1.
Chardy, unseeded, commenced against Brazilian qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva. Dutra Silva, more at home on the clay, put in a valiant effort but was overpowered by the big-hitting Frenchman who won in straight sets. That set up a meeting with his countryman, Richard Gasquet. Gasquet, a four-time Grand Slam semifinalist and former world #7, has fallen from those heady heights and was unable to live with Chardy’s power as the world #90 won 7-5 6-1.
How do they match up?
Dimitrov can call upon a wonderful variety of shots. The 26-year-old has terrific hands and is comfortable hitting almost every shot in the book. What has held him back, however, is that he cannot always call upon the basics. Whilst his serve can be an effective weapon, his ball toss is sometimes errant and on those days he hits too many double faults. His backhand is also vulnerable, particularly to high, looping shots.
His forehand is the closest thing he has to a reliable weapon. Under the tutelage of Dani Vallverdu Dimitrov has worked continuously on improving that wing, and not without results. Dimitrov imposing himself on opponents and dictating with his forehand has become a more regular sight of late. It was his forehand that fired him to the two biggest titles of his career in Cincinnati and at the ATP Finals in London. He will need it again against Chardy.
The Frenchman also likes to dominate with his forehand, and it is a formidable weapon indeed. Despite an unorthodox takeback, Chardy is capable of doing real damage with it. He is particularly adept at putting away mid-court balls, a more difficult proposition than many appreciate. However, his backhand can be suspect, and like Dimitrov, his ball toss is the source of serious problems. Too often he hits too many double faults and will have to avoid that against Dimitrov.
Chardy has won the first set in all four of their clashes so far, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take another first set off Dimitrov, who has made a habit of starting slow recently. But the world #4 should still have enough to get past Chardy, as he has in their previous three meetings. If he can stop Chardy dictating with his forehand, the Frenchman doesn’t have too many other avenues of attack. Dimitrov does, and he’ll win in three.
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