Grigor Dimitrov looks to make it three finals in four years in Stockholm as he is set to take on Juan Martin Del Potro in semifinal action at the If Stockholm Open. Dimitrov made the final at this tournament in both 2013 and 2014. Del Potro seeks his second final of the season after making the gold medal match at the Rio Olympics.
(2) Grigor Dimitrov vs (wc) Juan Martin Del Potro
Dimitrov battled through a tough test from Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals. The second seed won going away in the third set 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-2. Dimitrov suffered a major wobble in the second set as he went from serving for the set at 5-3 to losing the set after dropping four straight games. Dimitrov attributed that to poor serving, saying after the match that he’ll need to improve in that area, “there was some very poor serving form me today, that’s all I can say. I know Kevin was stepping in on pretty much everything, so the match could have gone either way.”
Dimitrov may have been a bit harsh on himself as his serve held up pretty nicely in sets one and three, where he won 80 percent of his service points combined. It was that second set where the serve came unraveled some as Dimitrov was broken twice and won just half his first serve points. Overall, the second seed wound up winning 74 percent of his service points for the match to score his fifth straight win over Anderson and sixth in seven tries.
Del Potro continued his march in Stockholm with a simple 6-3, 6-4 win over third seed Ivo Karlovic. Karlovic’s serve was off for most of the match as he won just 31 of 47 service points overall, a very low number for the Croat. Del Potro pounced on both break chances that he saw in the match with one in each set. DelPo did face some pressure on serve in the final set as he was forced to save four break points. Overall, he was solid as he won 81 percent of his first serve points and 65 percent of his second serve points. He added six aces and still has not been broken through three matches this week.
Saturday’s semifinal marks the fourth meeting between Dimitrov and Del Potro. DelPo is 3-0, including a 6-4, 6-2 romp on grass this summer in Stuttgart. It should be noted that was in the period when Dimitrov was still struggling and on the cusp of splitting with former coach Franco Davin. DelPo dominated the match with his serve as he fired 12 aces and won a whopping 93 percent of his first serve points. He didn’t face a single break chance, while converting on six of nine against Dimitrov. Their other two meetings both came indoors in 2013 with Del Potro winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in Paris and 6-4, 6-4 in Rotterdam. Both featured the same m.o. with Del Potro being difficult to break, just once on four chances. Dimitrov would be broken four times on ten chances over those two matches.
That sets the stage for this semifinal with a similar pattern likely to tell the tale. Del Potro’s serve has been rock solid this week with the four break chances against Karlovic as the only ones he has faced in three matches. He isn’t necessarily pounding the ball for aces, but he’s been able to control the points with big serving to put his opponent into poor positions. Dimitrov’s second set wobble against Anderson shows the somewhat fragile nature of his serve still, despite it being mostly solid in four of five sets played in two matches this week.
Dimitrov can ill-afford any wobbles against Del Potro, who isn’t likely to fade away as Anderson did in the final set. Del Potro has been dynamite indoors in his career with a 68 percent win percentage on the surface. His big ground strokes match-up with the conditions, so Dimitrov figures to have quite a battle on his hands. DelPo wants to clobber that forehand as much as possible, so it will be on Dimitrov to use his variety to get the Argentine off balance. Dimitrov would do well to try and keep the exchanges going more from backhand to backhand, where he has the better consistency and shot making ability.
That is easier said than done and if Del Potro is getting around to hit his forehand a high percentage of the time, then he is going to have a great shot to score the win. I think Dimitrov can match DelPo with his serve as Del Potro’s return game is decent, but not overwhelming. That means the sets could come down to a few key points, either fending off break chances or converting them. Both have almost identical numbers there with DelPo saving 62 percent of his break chances and converting 38. Dimitrov saves right around 60 and is converting about 37 percent for the season.
What I’m trying to say is this match is going to be tight. I give Del Potro the edge with his serve, but he’s not been tested heavily this week by anyone who brings the arsenal that Dimitrov does. This truly feels like a 50-50 match at this stage and I fancy the survivor here to finish the job in the title match. The one thing I have not seen Dimitrov do in his late season surge is beat a power player who can push him around the court. Definitely give Dimitrov a real shot to win and at least take a set here, but I think Del Potro, Juan sneaks through.
Del Potro wins in three sets