In a heavyweight clash, 12-time Grand Slam champion and former #1 Novak Djokovic takes on 2014 Queen’s Club champion and world #6 Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the quarterfinals. Djokovic is looking to get back to his very best ahead of Wimbledon, where he has been crowned champion on three occasions. But Dimitrov will have plenty of ambitions of his own ahead of the grass court Slam. Who will come out on top?
The pair have met seven times so far over the course of their careers and it is not a match up that Dimitrov has enjoyed, losing six of those seven matches. That included defeats in their first two matches, in 2012 in Shanghai in the second round and in the third round in Indian Wells a year later, with the Bulgarian losing in straight sets on both occasions. However, he had his revenge in Madrid two months later, stunning the then #1 Djokovic in a 7-6 6-7 6-3 win.
Since then Djokovic has rubberstamped his dominance in the rivalry with five straight sets wins. That included in the third round in Paris in their third meeting of 2013 and in 2014 at Wimbledon in the semifinals, with Djokovic winning 6-4 3-6 7-6 7-6. They met again in 2014 in Beijing where Djokovic delivered a dominant performance to win 6-2 6-4 in the quarterfinals. In their most recent match Djokovic bested Dimitrov from a set down in 2016 at the Paris Masters.
Path to the second round
Djokovic began his Queen’s Club campaign, having been given a wildcard, against Australian qualifier John Millman. The Brisbane native had impressed in defeating Nicolas Mahut 6-3 3-6 7-6 and Marius Copil 6-3 6-3 to reach the main draw. But he was swiftly outclassed by Djokovic, despite a promising start to the match. Ultimately, it was the perfect start to his grass court season for Djokovic who advanced to the second round a 6-2 6-1 winner.
Dimitrov found himself under a rather sterner examination in his first round match which pitted him against Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur. Dimitrov looked to be making a good start to his tournament when he took the first set 6-3, but his level dipped to allow Dzumhur back into the match and the Bosnian took full advantage, levelling the match in a tiebreak. He broke immediately in the decider, but the second seed righted the ship quickly and played some good tennis to wrap up a 6-3 6-7 6-3 win.
How do they match up?
Both players are excellent athletes and superbly naturally gifted tennis players. But, what Dimitrov will have to be aware of in this match is stopping Djokovic from targeting his backhand, by far his weaker wing. All the more so because Djokovic has no comparable weaknesses. However, if Dimitrov is regularly able to put Djokovic under pressure, the Serbian may be forced into making errors. Dimitrov would also do well to approach the net when he can.
Dimitrov may be the higher-ranked man, but he failed to impress all that much in defeating Dzumhur in the first round. If he delivers that sort of performance against a player of Djokovic’s calibre, he will be punished. Add to that how sharp Djokovic looked in defeating Millman, once he had shaken off any rust after a long absence from grass court tennis, and the clouds on Dimitrov’s horizon look dark indeed. Djokovic in three sets.