Dimitrov Saves 2 M.P. In Brisbane Battle
World No. 3 fights hard for victory in Queensland
World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov kept hopes of retaining his Brisbane International presented by Suncorp title alive by saving two match points on his way to a 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-3 win over John Millman on Thursday night.
The Bulgarian star saved match point at 5/6 and 6/7 in the second-set tie-break en route to extending his winning streak to six matches, which includes a title-run at the Nitto ATP Finals in November 2017. Dimitrov, reflecting on the two points, complimented Millman’s level while expressing delight at his great, instinctive play.
“He couldn't have played the ball better,” said Dimitrov. “But also, at the same time, I thought I couldn't have done anything else besides what I did. I think two of the shots in the first match point were pure instinct for me. So I'm pleased with it.”
Dimitrov, who has now reached the quarter-finals five times on his six appearances at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament beat World No. 128 Millman over two hours and 38 minutes. He will next play Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund in the quarter-finals on Friday.
The reigning champion, well aware of how close he came to a season-opening defeat, was quick to praise Millman who twice found himself just one point away from defeating his first Top 10 opponent in the ATP Rankings.
“I've seen him play quite a few times out here, playing really aggressive, striking the ball amazing, and it was no less tonight," said Dimitrov. "I'm the winner today but he put himself in that position to win the match.
"I'm just very pleased [with] the way I played on those key points and especially on the match points. So I think that gives me a certain amount of confidence coming into any other match that I have to play now."
After exchanging early breaks in the first set, Millman’s continued pressure on the Dimitrov serve paid off at the tail-end of the opener. The 28-year-old managed to win almost half of all points (23/48) on the Bulgarian’s serve and in the 10th game, a second breakthrough came for Millman who took the set 6-4.
A dramatic second set followed with both men breaking serve before reaching a tie-break and it was there that Millman manufactured two match points for the biggest win of his career. But the four-time 2017 titlist on the ATP World Tour was not to be denied, saving the first in an epic rally at the net and a second with an aggressive forehand into the corner. But Millman had no regrets on his strategy, complimenting his rival's level for the epic match point save.
“I went for a body serve. Maybe I should have gone for an ace. Who knows? Hindsight is a great thing,” said Millman.“I made him play five, six backhands, then he's come in and he's played a volley that's taken out nearly both lines. I managed to get him to play another volley, and he played another volley back the other way. What else can I do on that point?”
Dimitrov would later convert his second set point to win the tie-break and level the match. From that point, the 26-year-old motored through the decider with a break in the fourth game and a near-perfect performance on points behind his first serve (17/18). An emotional Millman reflected on what might have been, had either of the two points gone differently, and what it would have meant for his career.
“I gave it everything,” said Millman. “I can be proud of giving it everything. That's tennis. You win some, you lose some. It would have really been one of the most special nights of my career if I had won against a player like Grigor in front of my home crowd, who stuck it out well past midnight to watch me play. It would have been one of the highlights of my career.”
Now unbeaten in six matches, Dimitrov will attempt to keep that streak alive in his quarter-final match against Kyle Edmund. The British No. 2 defeated #NextGenATP champion Hyeon Chung 7-6(3), 5-7 6-4 earlier in the day.