Stan Wawrinka took Grigor Dimitrov on a rollercoaster ride from heartbreak to hope and back to heartbreak during a dramatic 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(4) win at the Western & Southern Open Tuesday in Cincinnati.
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 138 mph ace.
“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 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 harder to stomach.