A mouthwatering contest between world number three, formerly hailed a tennis prodigy, Grigor Dimitrov and local hero Nick Kyrgios was expected to turn out to be highlight of Sunday’s action at the Australian Open. Naturally, the showdown had been eagerly awaited by tennis fans and experts alike. Only two weeks had passed since the pair had faced off the last time in Brisbane where Kyrgios upended Dimitrov’s title aspirations in taking home a three set win. Both previous encounters had been won by the Bulgarian who was labeled “Baby Federer” in his early career.

Both players started the match in impeccable fashion and held their respective serves with relative ease, both hitting lots of aces and converting chances off the first serve in clinical manner. It was hard to tell who looked more composed as neither player showed any signs of tension.

Grigor Dimitrov executing a backhand slice

However, there were considerably more inconsistencies and erratic errors in Kyrgios’s game than in Dimitrov’s. Thus, the first breakpoints of the match arrived when Kyrgios stepped up to the baseline to hold serve, trailing 2-3 in the first set. The Australian managed to hold his nerve and send some crushing winners to the other side of the net, earning him the sixth game. The first set culminated in a decisive tiebreak which proved Dimitrov to be the slightly more consistent of the two. The ability of playing the “big points” just a tiny bit better turned out to be what separated the two by the slimmest of margins. Fittingly, Kyrgios conceded the first set by serving up a double fault, gifting the first serve to Dimitrov 7-6 (3).

The second set was dominated by many of the dynamics that had already shaped the first set. Both players stayed perfect on serve for long and displayed some marvelous attacking tennis. By the midst of the set, very much like in the first set, an opportunity to break the Kyrgios serve arose for Dimitrov. On this occasion the 26 year old converted his chance instantly to obtain a 4-3 lead. His nerves started to impair his serving performance whilst serving for the set at 5-4. Kyrgios, who was wildly cheered on by the Rod Laver Arena crowd, for the entire duration of the match, broke back. Neither player struggled on serve from there on and another tiebreak had to decide matters. Dimitrov committed far less unforced errors during the breaker which ensued and after two sets of mesmerizing rallies and breathtaking tennis he grabbed a two sets to none lead, winning the second set 7-6 (4).

By now, Dimitrov seemed to be in firm control of proceedings and looked like he would emerge as the victor in few minutes. Kyrgios’s performance apparently was aided by the two sets to none deficit as he began unloading on his groundstrokes more regularly. Once the pressure weighing on him had vanisheded, as noone expected the local hero to bounce back, he broke the Dimitrov serve once more to go up by 3-2. He kept preventing Dimitrov from creating any breakpoint opportunities for the remainder of the set while his intensity seemed to increase every time that he took a hit at the ball. Eventually, he closed out the third set by smashing two consecutive aces down Dimitrov’s side of the court to win it 6-4, emphasized by a primal roar after each serve.

The early stages of the fourth set saw the desires of Dimitrov to put this match to bed and Kyrgios’s to resist at all costs collide. The Australian was forced to dig deep early and fend off early breakpoints at 1-2. After nearly eight minutes of play, Dimitrov finally shanked the ball into the illuminated skies of Melbourne above Rod Laver Arena and Kyrgios hung on. Despite all the effort invested by him, Dimitrov maintained high percentages on his serve and could rely on it whenever it gravely mattered. The local favorite on the other hand relied on his serve almost exclusively while his groundstrokes became increasingly prone to errors. Leading 4-3, Dimitrov finally broke the Kyrgios serve as he retrieved some heavy blows by his adversary who ended up netting the smash. As had already been the case towards the close of the second set, Dimitrov’s nerves started impairing his service performance, bringing up two breakpoints whilst serving for the match as he served up a double fault at the most inconvenient of moments. A triumphant backhand winner down the line reignited Kyrgios’s fighting spirit and soon after he leveled the match at 5 games all. A third tiebreak was required to decide matters yet again.

Dimitrov eventually sealed a hard-fought four set win after nearly three hours and twentyseven minutes as he send a forehand thunderbolt cross court past Kyrgios who had saved a matchpoint before, the final scoreline reading 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (4). He advances to the quarterfinals where he will face British underdog Kyle Edmund whom he holds a positive head to head record against.

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