Dimitrov Stuns Federer In Five Sets At US Open
Grigor Dimitrov arrived at the US Open mired in one of the deepest slumps of his career, losing seven of his eight matches leading into the season’s final major. But stunning Roger Federer in a Grand Slam quarter-final is a pretty good way to wipe away those bad memories for the World No. 78.
Dimitrov came from two sets to one down to shock the five-time champion 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, advancing to his first semi-final in Flushing Meadows. The 28-year-old had never beaten the third seed in seven previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, winning just two of 18 sets in those matchups.
"I think the past six, seven months have been pretty rough for me. But I had somebody to lean on, my friends, my family. I kept on believing again in the work, the rehab I had to put behind my shoulder, the exercise, the practice, fixing up the racquet a little bit. There were so many things I had to adjust in such a small but big period of time," Dimitrov said. "Next thing you know, you're almost [at the] end of the year, you have a result like that. It's pretty special to me."
There will be a first-time major finalist on the top half of the draw at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, as Dimitrov will play in-form fifth seed Daniil Medvedev in the last four. They have split two previous matches, both of which came in 2017.
The Bulgarian has reached some of the highest highs in the sport, winning the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals and climbing as high as No. 3 in the ATP Rankings. But Dimitrov is at his lowest standing in more than seven years.
That didn’t matter under the lights inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. Dimitrov took advantage of a night on which Federer never found his top level, maintaining his ground on the baseline and using great variety to keep the 20-time major winner from getting into a groove. And after three hours and 12 minutes, Dimitrov became the lowest-ranked Grand Slam semi-finalist since Rainer Schuettler did so as World No. 94 at Wimbledon 11 years ago.
"After the second set I felt I was getting a good strike on my shots," Dimitrov said on the court. "My main goal was to stay on the court as long as possible. At the end for sure he was not 100 per cent. It's best of five and anything can happen."
Federer, the oldest major quarter-finalist since a 39-year-old Jimmy Connors made the semi-finals of the 1991 US Open, made 61 unforced errors to only 41 for Dimitrov. The Swiss converted only four of the 14 break points he earned.
"I thought he was tough off the baseline. He mixed up well, which gave me all sorts of problems with the rhythm. Could never really feel comfortable off the baseline," Dimitrov said. "That's something in the past I've always been able to dominate, I'd say. That was not the case tonight. He did a good job there."
In the end, Dimitrov simply played the cleaner match. Although he double faulted to get broken multiple times, the Monaco resident remained calm in rallies, with Federer ultimately making 21 more unforced errors than he struck winners.
At the beginning of the match, it was tough to forecast an upset. The 38-year-old Swiss seemingly set the tone by breaking in his first return game en route to a 3-0 lead. Federer dropped just nine games total in his previous two matches before facing Dimitrov, so it looked like much of the same.
But Dimitrov, a first-time US Open quarter-finalist, made his key breakthrough when he broke for 4-2 in the second set. Even though he could not serve out the set at 5-3, returning the break of serve with a double fault into the net, Dimitrov showed that he was very much in the match, and on his first set point Federer mishit a cross-court forehand well wide.
Federer broke twice in the third set to capture the momentum. But like in the second set, he was unable to get off to a quick start in the fourth, and that proved costly. After Dimitrov forced a decider, Federer left the court for a medical timeout as the Bulgarian did push-ups on his bench to stay warm.
"Just needed to try to loosen it up, crack it and see if it was going to be better," Federer said. But this is Grigor's moment and not my body's moment, so... it's okay."
Dimitrov raced to a double break and 4-0 lead in the fifth set as Federer continued to make unforced errors, struggling to find a surge of energy. And finally, after holding to love, Dimitrov put his hands on his head and let out a massive roar after securing the win.
"Sometimes when you've gone through so many matches of maybe getting a little bit tight in the end, a little bit nervous, so on, thoughts and whatever, you are starting to learn a little bit," Dimitrov said. "It was one of those days that when I was serving for the match, I was just as relaxed in a sense that I was able to control my nerves pretty good, control my shots, and taking the right decision. That's the most important. Clearly I had three first serves, good points. That for sure helped as well."
Did You Know?
Dimitrov entered the match with a 1-10 record against players inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings at Grand Slams, with his only previous victory against the elite group coming against then-World No. 5 Andy Murray in the 2014 Wimbledon quarter-finals.