Wawrinka Inflicts Agonising Defeat On Dimitrov
After playing exceptional tennis to take the first set, Dimitrov slumped to find himself down 1-5 in the third. But chasing just his second win since Roland Garros, Dimitrov turned the match on its head by clawing back the double break – saving two match points in the process – to draw level at 5-all.
Then, things got even stranger. Wawrinka broke but was unable to serve out the match, Dimitrov breaking for a third consecutive time - courtesy of a spectacular chase of a drop shot and topspin forehand winner down the line.
But Wawrinka raced to a 4/0 lead in the tie-break and despite handing back two mini-breaks, he steadied to take the match, closing out the tie-break with a 138 mph ace. It was his fifth consecutive win over Dimitrov dating back to last year's Wimbledon, when the Swiss snapped a four-match losing streak against his younger rival.
“It helps a little bit to have won the past few matches against him, but before that he was beating me most of the time. I knew I could expect a tough match,” said Wawrinka. “It’s a first round and you never play your best tennis, but the most important thing is to fight. I’m happy with the win.”
In a battle of two of the best one-handed backhands in the business, Dimitrov had the edge in extended rallies, topping Wawrinka 29-26 in rallies of five to nine shots, and 17-8 in rallies of 10 shots or more.
But most matches are won by the player who dominates the shorter points, and that is where Wawrinka stood out, claiming a 75-52 edge in points under five shots. Those included 10 double faults by his opponent.
While Wawrinka has solidified his position inside the Top 25 on his steady rise back following two left knee surgeries, Dimitrov continues to look for ways to arrest his slide down the ATP Rankings. The former World No. 3 and 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion came into Cincinnati at No. 74, his lowest mark since 2012.
He slips to a 12-15 record on the year and 1-6 since Roland Garros, making today’s loss even tougher to digest.
Wawrinka will next face two-time Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Andrey Rublev, who battled past No. 15 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2 in a matchup of two big hitters. The Swiss won their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, but that came three years ago in Chennai, when Rublev was just 18.
The Russian is searching for his form on the hard courts as he tries to maintain momentum from his run to the Hamburg European Open final on clay at the end of July. The player he lost to in that final was the man whom he defeated on Tuesday, Basilashvili. Rublev, a qualifier, struck 16 aces and saved the only break point he faced.
In other action, home favourite Frances Tiafoe ousted Coupe Rogers semi-finalist Gael Monfils 7-6(7), 6-3 to earn his first Top 20 victory since the Mutua Madrid Open. Two years ago, Tiafoe defeated Alexander Zverev en route to the third round in Cincinnati. He will next face No. 11 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated in-form Pole Hubert Hurkacz 7-6(6), 6-3.
”The objective for me -- obviously I'm happy I won, but it was just to play a match and feel no pain,” said Tiafoe. “I couldn't play last week because of injuries. I was happy to be able just to come out here and play a match, which is obviously very physical when you're playing Gael. I tried to stay in every point and it worked out today.”