Grigor Dimitrov emerged the victor in the ATP 500 event in Acapulco as he beat Kevin Anderson in the final 7-6 (1), 3-6, 7-6 (5). It is Dimitrov’s second ATP title, after winning the ATP 250 event in Stockholm at the end of last season. Dimitrov went into the match as the underdog, but only slightly, being ranked one place lower at 22 than Anderson’s 21, yet emerged the victor in a match he had to come back from behind in the final set to win.
Anderson started the match the stronger, putting pressure on Dimitrov’s service game at 2-2. The Bulgarian was brought back to deuce after leading 40-0 and survived courtesy of being steadier in the longer rallies. Anderson then put pressure on Dimitrov’s serve again at 4-4, holding 3 break points at 0-40. Once again, Dimitrov survived the test, cutting down the errors in his ground game and mixing up the pace with both spin and slice to take control of the rallies and forcing 5 errors from Anderson to take the game.
Leading 5-4, Dimitrov then had opportunities to break Anderson and take the set but was unable to take it as Anderson served an ace up the tee. Dimitrov got another set point in the same game but dumped an easy return into the net. Anderson won the game, the two men continued to hold serve and the set went into a tiebreaker. Dimitrov proved to be the firmer of the two, putting pressure on the Anderson forehand to force an error and take the first minibreak and a 2-0 lead. Dimitrov then ran away with the tiebreak to take it 7-1 and win the first set.
The first set loss seemed to focus Dimitrov’s opponent. Anderson, who lost the previous week’s Delray Beach final to Marin Cilic in a third set breaker, came out in the second set with the determination of someone not prepared to win two big finals back to back. The 2.01 m South African broke in the second game of the second set, taking the set’s only break point, and then held serve to take the set 6-3.
Dimitrov’s chances of becoming the victor in Acapulco looked less and less likely as Anderson kept up his good form, moving Dimitrov side to side and using every inch of the court to earn a break point. A shaky forehand from Dimitrov went long and Anderson took the first break of the third set to lead 3-1. Dimitrov did not go away though. He upped his level, fought back and trailing 4-3 on Anderson’s serve earned a break back point. The Bulgarian did not have to fight to take it as Anderson double faulted to help Dimitrov level the match at 4-4. In an increasingly thrilling third set, both men then held serve all the way into a championship deciding tiebreaker.
Once again, Anderson forged ahead, taking the first mini-break to lead 4-2, but Dimitrov refused to give in and got the mini-break back. The topsy turvy match then turned in the favor of Dimitrov when at 5-5 Anderson attemoted to cut short a long rally by stepping into the court to strike a backhand but over-hit the ball to send it long and hand Dimitrov a match point, and on the Bulgarian’s serve. Once again Anderson went for too much, this time on the forehand, and the Apaculco title was Dimitrov’s.
Dimitrov’s emergence as the victor in Acapulco is another promising development in the career of the 22-year-old, a former junior world number one who won the 2008 Wimbledon and U.S. Open Junior Championships. It is a step up from his first career title in Stockholm, an ATP 250 event, and comes just over a month after his first Major quarter-final at the Australian Open where he had his chances against Rafael Nadal. Next up for Dimitrov would be to make a final of an ATP 1000 tournament, and with his hard court form proving to be as good as it has this past week, that next step might come this month in one of the upcoming tournament in Miami or Indian Wells.
Commentary by Christian Deverille