Tiafoe Breaks New Ground, Dimitrov Moves On In Melbourne
Dimitrov to play young American for second time
Frances Tiafoe came through a test of maturity on Friday to back up his second-round win over Kevin Anderson at the Australian Open. The powerful #NextGenATP American continued his confident run at Melbourne Park with a 6-7(3), 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over the experienced and hard-working Italian Andreas Seppi in three hours and 17 minutes.
The 20-year-old showcased greater firepower on serve and won more points at the net — 21 to Seppi’s eight — to book a place in the fourth round of a Grand Slam championship for the first time. He will next challenge 2017 semi-finalist and No. 20 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
“It was quite a lot of fun,” said Tiafoe. “Definitely hurts, very tired right now. But it's unbelievable… I'm taking the game to the guys. I'm playing very aggressive, trying to put things in my terms. Also, I'm competing really well, staying in the rallies. Not bailing out. Going point in, point out.”
Tiafoe broke Seppi’s serve in the first game of the deciding set, and also for the fifth time overall in the final game to complete his third victory of 2019. Seppi, who finished as runner-up to Alex de Minaur at the Sydney International last week, struck 19 aces among 45 winners.
When asked about facing Dimitrov, Tiafoe said, “It should be good. We're good friends. He's going to come out obviously just competing like crazy. So am I. It's a big match to get to the final eight. Obviously, he made the final eight last year, so he wants to get back there [and] start the year off well, get back to where he deserves to be, which is Top 5, in my opinion.”
Dimitrov, who beat Tiafoe 7-6(1), 3-6, 7-6(4) at the Rogers Cup in August 2018, booked his place in the fourth round — for the fifth time overall — by knocking out Seppi’s compatriot, Thomas Fabbiano 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and seven minutes. Dimitrov, the 2017 Australian Open semi-finalist (l. to Nadal), struck 37 winners and converted four of his five break points. He is now 5-1 on the season.
“Overall, [it was] a great, great match,” said Dimitrov. “Conditions were pretty good to play tennis. I was just trying to lock myself in and just play a good match. I didn't try to force anything. I just kind of let the games roll by a little bit more. I was serving well, moving well. All those things were a plus for me.”
When asked about Tiafoe, Dimitrov said, “He’s a great guy. We have always a lot of fun with him in the locker room. Everybody loves him. I think that already adds up. For sure, he's been playing really well, especially at the beginning of the year, been having good results. He’s already a few very good wins out here in Melbourne. He's going to be dangerous to play. He's going to be excited. It's a new ground for him. So I don't expect it to be an easy match at all.”
Did You Know?
The Australian Open is Dimitrov’s most successful Grand Slam in terms of matches won. The 27-year-old owns a 23-8 record at Melbourne Park, compared to a 15-9 mark at Wimbledon, 8-8 at the US Open and 7-8 at Roland Garros.