Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov takes on former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro. Neither player has had the career that was expected of them although for completely different reasons. But despite that, both have provided the tennis world with some moments of sheer genius, and are hugely popular with fans worldwide. Both are also very comfortable on North American hard courts and have had some good results in Cincinnati before. A terrific match should await.
The pair have met five times, and somewhat surprisingly, Dimitrov is yet to pick up a victory. Their first match came in 2013 in Rotterdam, in the semi-finals. Del Potro won that match in straight sets and went on to defeat Julien Benneteau in the final. Del Potro defeated him later that year at the Paris Masters in three sets before his injury layoff in 2014 and 2015 saw a break in their rivalry. They met twice in 2016, in Stuttgart and Stockholm, and Del Potro won both in straight sets. Their most recent meeting came in 2017 in Rome where Del Potro recovered from dropping the first set to come through in three. Interestingly, however, the only surface they are yet to meet on is outdoor hard court. Perhaps that will be the key for Dimitrov to finally get a win over the Argentine.
Path to the 3rd round
Dimitrov, the seventh seed, began his campaign in the second round after receiving a first round bye. He faced Feliciano Lopez, who defeated him at Queen’s Club earlier in the year. But Dimitrov got his revenge on the Spaniard in a match full of terrific shot making. After Dimitrov took a tight opening set in a tie break, seven points to five, he got the decisive break in the second to take the match.
Del Potro, unseeded, had a tough opening round encounter against Tomas Berdych. Both have spent most of their careers in the top 10, making it a strange first round encounter, but a thrilling one all the same. Del Potro started slowly, and Berdych took the first set 6-3. But despite pressing hard in the second, he couldn’t break the Argentine’s serve and it went to a tie break. Del Potro won it 7-1 before laying the hammer down in the decider. His forehand was firing, and Berdych couldn’t cope as the Argentine romped home 6-0 to move into the second round. There he faced American qualifier Mitchell Krueger, who had upset Benoit Paire in the first round. Krueger battled hard, and the match was closer than the scoreline suggested but ultimately, he wasn’t able to repeat his heroics. Del Potro won 6-4 6-4 to make the third round.
How do they match up?
Both players are at their best when playing aggressive tennis, primarily from the baseline. That being said, Dimitrov does have excellent hands and is comfortable in the forecourt. Both men favour their forehands, with Del Potro having the most powerful in the game. Dimitrov also has a fine forehand although it is nothing like the weapon that the Argentine possesses. The weakness for both is in coming over the backhand. Dimitrov can hit topspin drives sweetly on occasion and his technique is very elegant. But it also breaks down quite easily, particularly when the Bulgarian is forced to deal with high balls. His second serve can also be attacked, though his first delivery has improved dramatically this year.
The key to deciding the match will be the forehand. If either player has an off day on that shot, it is hard to see how they can win the match, as their offensive choices are fairly limited. Del Potro is coming over his backhand with increasing confidence after his injury but it is still not the shot it was before 2014. Dimitrov will also have to defend well as Del Potro will otherwise dominate the match with his forehand.
In theory, this should be a closely contested match up, but in reality, it has not yet been so. The fast court surface should favour Del Potro’s aggressive play. It hard to see reasons why the head-to-head dominance he has so far enjoyed will change in Ohio. Moreover, Dimitrov’s early season promise has not really materialised into improved play since, and the year has been fairly disappointing for the Bulgarian. Del Potro’s power off the forehand should be too much for Dimitrov. Expect the Argentine to come through this match.
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