Dimitrov Reaches Vienna Semifinals Through Hard Work And A Touch Of Humility

Grigor Dimitrov (photo: e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Christian Hofer)

VIENNA/WASHINGTON, October 28, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

As the quarterfinal round of the Erste Bank Open began in the Austrian capital city of Vienna on Friday, only three seeded players had made it to the last eight. Two of them, top seed Daniil Medvedev and No. 6 seed Jannik Sinner, were paired to face each other while the third, No. 5 seed Hubert Hurkacz, faced the upset artist from the night before, No. 27 Borna Coric.

While only two of the quarterfinalists, Sinner and Daniel Evans, have made it as far as the Vienna semifinals – Sinner last year and Evans in 2020 – it was the opening match, between No. 32 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and No. 58 Marcos Giron of the United States that held much intrigue and set the stage for rest of the day.

Meeting for the third time after splitting a pair of Roland Garros first-round matches (in 2020 and 2021), both Dimitrov and Giron were looking to reach their third ATP semifinal of the season. They both arrived on Wiener Stadthalle’s Center Court sporting 2-2 win-loss records in quarterfinal matches.

Although Giron, 29, was the lowest-ranked player left among the quarterfinalists, the 2014 NCAA singles titlist came in with plenty of incentive to win. He would move to a career-high ranking – around No. 45 – with a victory over the 31-year-old Tour veteran. Meanwhile, Dimitrov has been solid in his service games all week, winning 89 percent of his first-serve points while being broken just once in 20 service games.

As it happened, Dimitrov won the quarterfinal battle, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, in just under two hours to advance to his third semifinal of 2022. The Bulgarian hit 11 aces and struck 37 winners overall. He won 79 percent of his first-serve points, controlled play at the net and converted four of eight break points. He outpointed Giron 86-70.

“I lost my focus a bit in the second set,” Dimitrov admitted afterward in press. Fortunately for him, he redeemed himself in the third set thanks to a service break in the ninth game that put him ahead 5-4. It allowed him to serve out the victory in the next game.

Dimitrov’s triumph advanced him to face World No. 4 Medvedev from Russia, who defeated the World No. 12 Sinner with a heavy groundstroke attack that was as persistent as it was effective. During their 91-minute quarterfinal, Medvedev hit 20 winners to just nine unforced errors and won twice as many return points as the young Italian rising star.

Medvedev faced no break points and converted three of his six chances against Sinner. He outpointed his opponent 63-48. The Russian star has not been broken in 26 service games this week.

“Jannik is a top player, and he can pose problems to anybody basically,” Medvedev said in his post-match interview. “The last two Grand Slams, he played five sets with the [eventual] winner, so Jannik is a top player and I’m really happy today with my performance.

“I served amazingly well, I almost didn’t do any unforced errors, I was solid behind the baseline. Everything was working well today and I’m really happy about it.”

Looking ahead to Saturday afternoon’s first semifinal match, Medvedev will bring a 3-2 head-to-head advantage into his tussle with the Bulgarian. However, Dimitrov won their last meeting, in the round of 16 at Indian Wells last year, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, that ended a nine-match winning streak by the former World No. 1.

“Grigor is the same [as Sinner], he is a top player, he can beat anybody,” said Medvedev, who will take a 43-15 win-loss record this season into the match with Dimitrov. His serve has not been broken this week in Vienna. “He was a Top 3 player, making semis of Slams. Maybe, more up and down this year, but when he is up, he is amazing. So, I just have to play my best tennis from my side and that’s how I can have the chance to win.”

Another giant victory for Coric

No. 27 Borna Coric reached his second ATP Tour semifinal of the season after pulling off another third-set tie-break victory over a higher-ranked opponent. After beating No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece on Thursday, Coric returned to Wiener Stadthalle Friday evening and in two hours and 51 minutes upended No. 5 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5).

It was Coric’s 14 win in 17 matches since the start of the ATP Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati in August.

Coric struck 34 winners and withstood an offensive blitz from Hurkacz that included 28 aces and 56 winners. He was outscored 107-105, but it didn’t matter in the end. It was Coric’s second win over the Polish star in three career meetings.

“I don’t know [how I won], to be honest,” said Coric in describing his win over Hurkacz, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “He was serving absolute bombs, I’ve never seen that in my life. I was just hanging in there, focusing on my serve and trying to stay positive, because that’s the only thing that I could do, and then hope that in the tie-break I could make some returns.”

On Saturday, Coric will face World No. 19 Denis Shapovalov of Canada, who raced past No. 26 Daniel Evans of Great Britain, 6-3, 6-3, in an hour and 37 minutes, for the last spot in the final eight.

Shapovalov belted 37 winners, won 86 percent of his first-serve points, and overcame 22 unforced errors. He outpointed Evans 76-61 to advance to his fourth ATP Tour semifinal this season.

Around the Erste Bank Open

• Argentine duo Francisco Cerundolo and Maximo Gonzalez advanced to Saturday’s semifinals with a 5-7, 6-3, 12-10 win over wild cards Robin Haase of the Netherlands and Philipp Oswald of Austria. Next, they will play Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Andres Molteni of Argentina.

Lucas Miedler and Alexander Erler

Lucas Miedler and Alexander Erler (photo: e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Christian Hofer)

• In the first doubles semifinal, Austrian wild cards Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler continued their dream week with a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) win over Belgian pair Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen that advanced them to Sunday’s championship match.

Erler and Miedler have not dropped a set through their first three wins. The winners won 83 percent of their first serve points and converted their only break point opportunity. Total points were even at 74 each.

Friday’s Erste Bank Open results

Saturday’s Erste Bank Open order of play

Medvedev makes time for his Vienna fans

By the numbers

Hubert Hurkacz, who has earned a personal-best 40 wins this season, leads the Erste Bank Open in aces (77). He has also held serve in 44 of 48 games (91 percent).

“Quotable …”

“In general, the way I played today against Jannik is the same as in Astana. I’m really happy, I have been looking for this level for a long, long time. It’s the level where I can win the biggest tournaments on Tour and I hope I can bring it to two more matches.”

– Top seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia, as quoted by the ATP Tour website, following his quarterfinal victory over No. 6 seed Jannik Sinner.