QF Preview: Federer & Dimitrov Face Off Under The Lights
Grigor Dimitrov has never beaten Roger Federer on a hard court, but that hardly makes him unique at the US Open quarter-finals – neither has Stan Wawrinka (0-17) or Daniil Medvedev (0-3). Dimitrov, however, can attempt to take motivation from the fact that the last time he fell to Federer on hard court at a Grand Slam, he put together his best match against the 20-time Slam titlist.
The Bulgarian took a set off Federer at the 2016 Australian Open for only the second time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series (11-2 in sets, also 2016 Brisbane). Federer's foray into the US Open quarter-finals was predictable – the third seed has made the last eight at a Slam 56 times, including 13 in New York, and will be going for his 11th US Open semi-final.
But few would have predicted Dimitrov would be the man across the net from Federer in the quarter-finals in Flushing Meadows. The 28-year-old, No. 78 in the ATP Rankings, had reached only one quarter-final this year (Brisbane) as a right shoulder injury derailed his 2019 and forced him to withdraw from four tournaments.
“Given the history of me and Roger, how we've played the past years, nothing had favoured me. But it is what it is right now,” Dimitrov said. “I'm very appreciative of where I'm at right now. I'm very appreciative of what I've gone through and what I'm going through. I'm exactly where I should be. Again, I could never predict, after a summer like that, beginning of the year like that, that I'm going to be out here. But I'm here.”
Federer knows how big of a match it will be for Dimitrov, the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion, and he also knows the Bulgarian's game better than most. “When we play, it's as close as it gets to being a similar playing style. I think for both of us it's cool to play one another,” Federer said.
The five-time US Open champion also will be aware of his past success against the first-time US Open quarter-finalist, and, as Federer always does, will look to place the pressure firmly on Dimitrov's side from first ball. But look for Dimitrov to try to jolt Federer out of any rhythm, perhaps even serving and volleying at times, something he completely avoided, to Federer's surprise, during their fourth-round match at 2017 Wimbledon.
“I'm happy that things are going better for him after he won Cincinnati a couple years ago... the [2017 Nitto ATP Finals]. He had a bit of a slump,” Federer said. “This is the big quarters for him, obviously with an opportunity against me. I'm aware of the fact it's a big match for him.
“I've done well against him in the past. But new match, new Grigor, new me.”
Watch Highlights Of Federer vs. Goffin
Daniil Medvedev was “young”, brash and “on fire”. The 23-year-old Russian wasn't describing his run to his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the US Open. The fifth seed was discussing his first Top 5 win, which came at 2017 Wimbledon against Stan Wawrinka, whom the Russian will meet again on Tuesday afternoon for a place in the semi-finals.
Medvedev was only 21 and 0-2 in Grand Slam matches. But at SW19, he knocked out the three-time Slam champion in four sets for his maiden Grand Slam victory before later finishing the season at the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
“Totally different,” Medvedev said, comparing their Wimbledon matchup to a potential US Open quarter-final. “Grass, I was young, I was less experienced, so I was on fire that match. I think that Stan also in Grand Slams, he's playing right now better than in other tournaments.”
Both players are nearing their peak. Wawrinka was 5-19 against Novak Djokovic in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series before their fourth-round match. But the Swiss was 3-4 against the Serbian during Grand Slams, a record he brought to .500 with the upset as Djokovic retired (left shoulder) with Wawrinka leading 6-4, 7-5, 2-1.
“I know how I feel in Grand Slams. I know [how] I get to my best level,” Wawrinka said after beating Djokovic. “Sometimes I struggle a little bit in the first few rounds, but if I get the win, if I can pass those matches, I know my confidence [is going to get] better.”
Watch Highlights Of Wawrinka vs. Djokovic
Medvedev had already beaten Djokovic twice this year, including only two weeks ago en route to his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. The World No. 5 downplayed talk of him potentially overthrowing one of the Big Three and winning the US Open title before the season's final Grand Slam event began. But now he's only two wins away from playing for the trophy.
“He's been playing amazing tennis, making final after final, winning Cincinnati, winning here a lot. It's going to be interesting match to play against him. I'm looking forward for it. It's the quarter-final. It's going to be, for sure, a great level. I'm excited to play,” Wawrinka said.
Medvedev has shown he can be steadier than anyone, including Djokovic, from the baseline. He eventually wore down German qualifier Dominik Koepfer to make the last eight and will want to keep Wawrinka on the move, using angles to pull the Swiss from side and side and minimise the time Wawrinka has to set up and bludgeon balls from the back of the court.
Wawrinka, though, will look to overpower Medvedev and avoid the steady, predictable back-and-forth rallies that the consistent Russian has used to rise to a career-high No. 5 in the ATP Rankings.
“Stan The Man” will arrive with more confidence in his plan than he's had in years. Only two years ago, the 23rd seed couldn't defend his 2016 US Open title (d. Djokovic) because he underwent two left knee surgeries in August 2017.
The injuries are well behind him, but another memorable run to the US Open final might be only a few days away.
ORDER OF PLAY – TUESDAY, 3 September 2019
Not Before 4 p.m.
Mixed Doubles match