Dimitrov Fights Back To Beat Goffin

It’s never easy playing a friend, but on Friday, a couple of hours before they were due to step onto a court again as doubles partners, Grigor Dimitrov put aside any sentiment to save three set points in the second set and beat David Goffin for a place in the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters semi-finals.

Under sun-kissed skies, on the hottest day of the week, fourth seed Dimitrov wrestled back the second-set momentum of sixth seed Goffin, recovering from a 1-5 deficit to win five straight games en route to completing a 6-4, 7-6(5) victory.

Goffin, a semi-finalist at the Monte-Carlo Country Club last year, was unable to convert three set point chances at 5-4 in the second set of an 18-point game against Dimitrov, who had won the biggest of their seven previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings in November for the Nitto ATP Finals crown (Dimitrov now leads 7-1 overall).

“I felt I did a lot of things better than the previous days,” said Dimitrov. “I started the match better and I served better. But then, at the same time, it’s clay court, anything can happen in a way. You always want to have that fight and that excitement to kind of come through it. But it’s very taxing obviously physically. There were a lot of positives from today’s match. That’s all I can say.”

Dimitrov, a resident of Monte-Carlo, will now test his clay prowess and fitness levels against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, with 10 titles earned on Court Rainier III, who beat fifth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem. Dimitrov trails Nadal 1-10 in their series, with his lone win coming in the 2016 China Open quarter-finals.

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“For sure he’s the favourite. Yes, he has a great record. Yes, he’s the best player on clay. That definitely doesn’t discourage me. That excites me to get out on Saturday and play my match, simple as that.

“I think one of the wrong things you can do is really focus on his side. I always said that. Whoever you play, you always got to focus on your end, the way you structure yourself to go out and play, be creative on the court. That’s just how it is.”

When asked about Nadal’s win over Thiem, Dimitrov said, “Rafa was on his ‘A game’ again. You’ve always got to be aware that he’s going to try his best on this surface… I wouldn’t call it frightening. I would say comfortable. He just feels comfortable.

“It’s always been a tough call on my side, of course. That doesn’t discourage me. If things are not going my way, at least I get some learning, something that might help me in the long run.”

Dimitrov held the upper hand in the first set, his forehand having extra pop to deny Goffin the opportunity to gain a foothold. Having broken Goffin for a 4-2 lead, Dimitrov grew in confidence and targeted Goffin’s forehand, his weaker side, but the Bulgarian was unable to convert two set points at 5-4 to be broken. But he quickly established his superiority in the next game to break Goffin for the 35-minute set.

Goffin, knowing he needed to play closer to the baseline, became aggressive and dictated to win the first four games — for the loss of seven points — in the second set, which he eventually led 5-1. Dimitrov regrouped and, at times, went for broke in his ball-striking to regain the momentum as Goffin started to drop the ball short. Goffin came to serve for the set, for a second time, at 5-4, but could not convert three set point chances—all at Ad Out. Most notably, on his first opportunity, when, with Dimitrov stranded the other side of the court, the Belgian hit a backhand down the line into the net. Goffin crouched down in anguish. Dimitrov, ultimately, converted his fifth break point chance and took a 6-5 lead.

Dimitrov, who won the first two points of the tie-break before being checked back, sealed his second match point at 6/5 when Goffin, in control of a long rally, was brought to the net by a low backhand slice. Dimitrov then ripped a backhand down the line for Goffin to punch a forehand volley long to end the one-hour and 46-minute encounter.

It was their first clash since February, when, in the semi-finals of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament, Goffin injured his left eye in a freak accident early in the second set against Dimitrov.

The pair had been due to return to Court des Princes, the tournament’s second show court, later today to compete together against third seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic in the doubles quarter-finals, but Dimitrov withdrew from the match due to a right shoulder injury.

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