(3) Grigor Dimitrov vs Kyle Edmund
Dimitrov’s Best Comes Against Kyrgios
Up until his fourth round clash against Nick Kyrgios, Grigor Dimtirov had left a lot to be desired in his run in Melbourne. That changed with a scintillating 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (4) win over the 17th seed from Australia. Dimitrov defended well against the aggressive tactics of Kyrgios and more importantly, cleaned up his serve. After struggling the previous two rounds, the third seed landed his first serve consistently at 70 percent. That helped make his still faulty second serve less of a problem, although he still won just 40 percent of the points. Off his first serve, he won 80 percent and smashed 16 aces. He would be broken three times, but on just five chances. Double faults again were more of an issue than you’d like with Dimitrov tallying seven.
Still, he found his best in the biggest moments of that match. Dimitrov had just 27 unforced errors and a whopping 64 winners. That’s monumentally improved from the last two rounds where he totaled 113 unforced errors combined against Mackenzie McDonald and Andrey Rublev. I think part of that is attributed to Dimitrov making a concerted effort to get around to more forehands. I saw it in return and in the ground rallies. It was a smart move considering his backhand had been misfiring a lot through the first three rounds. The biggest key though was his movement and defense, some of the best I’ve seen from Dimitrov since this last time last season.
Edmund Powers Past Seppi
Things didn’t look great for Kyle Edmund early against Andreas Seppi in round four. He took a medical timeout with the score sitting at 6-5 and needing to hold serve to get to a tie break. The Brit was experiencing discomfort in his serving shoulder. After a rubdown, he did hold, but Seppi took the opening set 7-6 (4). Edmund was not deterred however as his shoulder held up and allowed him to power past the Italian 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 over the final three sets. It was especially impressive considering the early shoulder trouble and having to come back from an early break down in set two. The win put the 23-year-old into his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
For the match, Edmund smashes 22 aces and was dominant with his first serve sporting an 80 percent win rate. His second was solid at 58 percent and he was broken just the one time on six chances. His ground game was a bit sloppy early with 40 total unforced errors in the match. Edmund would tally 63 winners. He also gradually worked into Seppi’s service games as the Italian appeared to be suffering from a shoulder issue too. Edmund broke Seppi five times on 15 chances. Since beating (11) Kevin Anderson in five to start the tournament, he has not had to face a seeded player. This will be a step up, but with his big first serve and forehand – the Brit won’t be without a chance.
These two have met twice with Dimitrov winning both times in three sets. The most recent came in Brisbane earlier this month. That is where Edmund suffered an ugly ankle spraind that botched his chance to knock off Dimitrov. The Bulgarian won 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4. The injury occurred at 4-4 in the final set and Edmund was clearly hampered as Dimitrov closed it out. I think Edmund will be keen to prove that he can beat Dimitrov after two close calls. Dimitrov won their other meeting on hard courts in Washington, D.C. in 2017 7=-5, 4-6, 6-3.
Dimitrov has been able to match Edmund serve for serve in the previous two meetings. He has been consistent with the first serve winning 82 and 83 percent of the points and his second winning 62 and 68 percent. The double fault issue has been apparent in both matches though with nine doubles in each match-up for the Bulgarian. You get the feeling all of these doubles are going to catch him at some point. Edmund has only broken Dimitrov once on ten chances and in Brisbane, he only saw two chances total. Dimitrov oppositely has broken the Brit four times on 16 chances combined.
Both matches, Edmund has not been able to boost his first serve win rate into the 80s where it needs to be, winning 75 and 74 percent. I think that is where we start in this match-up with first serve. Dimitrov elevated his against Kyrgios and Edmund has to figure out how to contend with that. Dimitrov did a really good job of stretching the Brit out wide to the forehand side and the backhand some as well to negate his power on return.
It helped set up Dimitrov with some quick 1-2 punches off his serve for easy points. Dimitrov offered good variety in his serve pattern, so Edmund was unable to adjust as well on return. Edmund tried adjust to a deeper position in return, but he just could not find the right measure on Dimitrov’s serve to be effective enough. Edmund did have success in coming in with some aggressive returns on second serve and that is always a good idea, especially if Dimitrov reverts to having issues landing his first serve.
As for Edmund’s booming first serve, his best efforts in Brisbane came when he handcuffed Dimitrov with body serves. The Bulgarian was forced to either chip back with backhands or take an awkward position to get to his forehand. Obviously, he’ll need to mix it up, but the body serves might be his best shot to get Dimitrov into poor position on return and help Edmund create some good chances off the second ball.
Into the ground rallies, Edmund has the power forehand that can dominate the action. He’s going to have to go for it in rallies to avoid falling prey to Dimitrov’s defense in long rallies. I don’t think Edmund can afford to get involved in a bunch of those, so look for him to take some aggressive shots early whether they work or not. Targeting Dimitrov’s backhand is still a good idea to me, make him prove he can hit it with consistency and purpose. If Dimitrov is flicking in too many slice backhands, Edmund has to be able to pounce on those and go for big shots off either wing.
This should be a good one and don’t overlook Edmund, even though he doesn’t have the experience at this stage of a Grand Slam. Having just played Dimitrov a few weeks ago, I think that takes some of the nerves out of this and he’s got nothing to lose in this spot. Most are already drooling about a Nadal-Dimitrov rematch before either sets foot on court for their quarterfinal today. As usual with a player with less experience, I think the need to get off to a good start though is higher. Winning the opening set would be a big boost to Edmund’s confidence, while it likely would not rattle Dimitrov one way or the other.
I do think this is a dangerous spot for the third seed, coming off an electric win and the unavoidable look ahead to the semifinals, possibly against Rafa. I think that is where a lot of the battle lies for Dimitrov in this one: staying focused on Edmund. If he does, the Brit has proven tough on him twice and may have beaten him earlier his year if not for the injury – he’s got the weapons to trouble the third seed. If Dimitrov sticks to a game plan of working Edmund around the court and staying aggressive with his forehand though, I think he wears Edmund down gradually. If not, the Brit has the ability to pull of an upset that wouldn’t be that far fetched.
Pig’s Bottom Line: Dimitrov wins in five sets