In an all-top ten battle, fifth seed Grigor Dimitrov takes on fourth seed Kevin Anderson. Dimitrov has endured a difficult few months, which perhaps reached their nadir with a first-round loss to the barely fit Wawrinka in the first round at Wimbledon. Anderson, meanwhile, played the best tournament of his life at the Championships, winning back-to-back marathons against Federer and Isner to reach the final where he ran out of steam against Djokovic. But who will win this one?
Dimitrov and Anderson have met seven times on Tour, and it is not a matchup the South African has enjoyed, losing six times. That included a loss in Eastbourne in 2011, although he had his revenge a year later in San Jose beating Dimitrov 2-6 7-6 7-6. But Dimitrov beat him twice during that grass court season, including at Wimbledon. Dimitrov also denied him in the Acapulco final in 2014 and in the Toronto quarterfinals that same year. In their most recent match, Dimitrov won in three in Stockholm.
Path to the quarterfinals
Dimitrov, who has a title to defend in Cincinnati next week, began his Toronto campaign with a tough draw against Fernando Verdasco. The Spaniard had already beaten him in Indian Wells and at Roland Garros this year and made the better start, winning the first set 6-4. But Dimitrov fought back, levelling swiftly before winning the decider in a tiebreak after a 35-shot rally on match point. He then had to battle past Frances Tiafoe, but played his best when it mattered most to win 7-6 3-6 7-6.
Anderson, who is also competing alongside Djokovic in the doubles, opened his tournament against Evgeny Donskoy. He struggled to find his best game and lost the first set, before landing some heavy blows to win the second. He went up an early break in the decider only to be pegged back, but dominated the ensuing tiebreak 7-0 to advance a 4-6 6-2 7-6 winner. He then overwhelmed Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka 7-5 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals.
How do they match up?
Dimitrov can summon versatility that would be the envy of most players. He has excellent feel, is a good volleyer and also moves well. But he is at his best when he simplifies his game, relying on his forehand as the weapon it can be when he is striking it with confidence and prioritises landing his first serve. He will also need to defend his backhand which is a serious liability for him. He is too often caught in two minds about what to do with it and nets far too many for a player of his quality.
He may, however, find the racquet being taken out of his hands more than a few times against Anderson, so formidable is the South African’s power. Though his biggest weapon is his serve, he is far more than just a big server. His forehand is one of the biggest on Tour and his backhand is rock-solid. Indeed, it was arguably his groundstrokes as much as his serve that took him to victory over Federer. He is not, however, the most mobile of players.
Dimitrov may have dominated their rivalry in the past, but the majority of their clashes have been extremely close. Indeed, they have played eight tiebreaks in their seven clashes on Tour and only one has been a straight sets victory, the first. Anderson seems to have lost more than a few of them because of a lack of belief. But that should not be a problem now. He’s a two-time Major finalist and is in much better form than Dimitrov. Anderson in three.