Grigor Dimitrov has downed Andy Murray 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(3) in the semi-finals of the ATP 500 tournament in Acapulco. The victory was the first one for the Bulgarian over the Scot in three attempts and took nearly three hours to accomplish, the rusty Scot, coming back from back surgery, proving to be at his resilient best on his favorite hard court surface while the Bulgarian displayed his improved mental toughness and the versatile game that has earned him the nickname Baby Federer.
The first set went the way of the now seventh ranked Scot 6-4. An impressive victory looked to be within Murray’s reach after a disappointing start to the season, losing in the last eight of the Australian Open and going out early in Rotterdam. A win over Dimitrov, who is coming off the back of his first quarter-final appearance in a slam at the Australian Open, would have boosted the Scot’s confidence as his Wimbledon title defense gets closer, but the 22nd ranked player in the world proved to be the one with the most self-belief when it mattered.
That self-belief shone through as the second set went into a tiebreaker. Dimitrov earned an early minibreak leading 1-0 with some fine net play and a winning smash and then held onto his serve impressively as Murray retrieved one ball after another to lead 5-1. The Scot did get one of the minibreaks back but Dimitrov’s willingness to force the issue saw him take the breaker 7-5.
Tied at a set all, the chance Dimitrov might be able to down Murray for the first time looked possible as he took an early break of serve. But it was not the cleanest of performances from Dimitrov, hitting 53 winners to 19 errors in the match, and he was broken back when serving for his fifth win over a top tenner at 5-3. The Bulgarian recovered though from the setback, holding his own serve and putting pressure on the Murray serve at 5-5. Murray fought hard, upped his aggression, and held, and after Dimitrov followed suit, the match went into a final set tiebreaker.
It was Murray who faltered first, his weak second serve punished by a huge forehand return from Dimitrov that forced an error from the Scot. Dimitrov’s confidence high, he sailed through the breaker, earning another mini-break at 5-3 as another weak Murray second serve allowed him to take control of the point and profit from a Murray error to the tune of 3 match points. At 6-3, his first match point on his serve, the Bulgarian served out wide and then struck a huge a forehand on the short ball to force another error from the Scot to take the breaker 7-3 and move into the final.
Dimitrov now faces South Africa’s Kevin Anderson for the trophy. It will be Dimitrov’s third final and once again he will not be the favorite going into the match, the 21st ranked Anderson, the recent Delray Beach finalist, being ranked one place higher. Dimitrov will not be flustered though. While, in his first final in Brisbane, he faced Murray and went down in two tight sets, in his second final, he upset third ranked David Ferrer in Stockholm. That victory proved he had what it took to win big against the top players. If Dimitrov can win big again in tomorrow’s final then the chances look good of him downing players of the caliber of Murray week in week out and earning himself a place among the elite where he has for so long promised to belong.
Commentary Christian Deverille
ATP World Tour