It’s just a quarterfinal at the Basel ATP
250 500 event, but you could make the case that Friday is Grigor Dimitrov’s biggest day of his tennis career. The young 22-year-old Bulgarian with the near-identical strokes to one Roger Federer will finally play Mr. Federer.
Much like when Federer beat Sampras a decade ago in Pete’s backyard at Wimbledon and the “torch” was passed, Dimitrov gets his shot at the “man” tomorrow. It’s Fed v. Baby Fed!
At 32 Roger is no longer Roger as we know while Dimitrov, ten years the junior to the Swiss, is blossoming – he just won his first career title last weekend in Stockholm – and likely will be ahead of Federer in the rankings by this time next year. Yet with their similar, er identical, games (same serve, same forehand, save backhand, same movements, same build, same clothing/racquet sponsor, etc), Federer’s desire to hang on and not to lose to a mirror of himself, it’s simply a tantalizing matchup. Young v. Old. New School v. Old School. Student v Mentor, and on and on.
“I’ve always wanted to play [Federer],” said Dimitrov. “He’s the greatest. He’s given opportunity to so many players and has brought so much to the game. Everyone wants to be part of that. I’m excited and looking forward to our match.”
And I think a lot of people have waited a long time to see this one, myself included. After consecutive wins in the first two rounds, Federer had a day off Thursday to work out any kinks that have plagued his game for much of the year. It’s doubtful he had enough time to accomplish that cleanup, but Roger will benefit from the Basel support, the comfort of indoors and of course his experience.
“It’s an amazing atmosphere for me to play in,” Federer said about playing at home. “As a kid I was always thinking about Wimbledon and Basel. For me those were the two great things. It’s important to never forget that dream. It’s the dream I have been chasing after since I was a kid.”
And I think the crowd will be the difference. Dimitrov, who’s arguably the better pound-for-pound player right now, I think will feel the jitters. Grigor’s a nervous lad anyway – he seems to cramp often – and playing Federer in Basel won’t ease the butterflies.
Plus, Roger doesn’t want to lose to someone who copied his game, not in Basel, not in their first meeting! (And he needs to make up for the Gstaad debacle!)
So if I had to pick I think Roger goes down early but comes back to win a close one here.
The Federer match will go on about 2pm ET. Because of the WTA Championships, Tennis Channel will not have it live.
In other matches, top seed Juan Martin Del Potro is also in action as is young Canadian Vasek Pospisil.
Over in Valencia, David Ferrer and Nicolas Alamgro lead the way. The top-seeded Ferrer who’s really struggled since Wimbledon meets Jerzy Janowicz in a good one. Jerzy ended John Isner’s London hopes earlier today.
Speaking of London, with Richard Gasquet losing early in Basel it looks like Federer will get the sixth spot. That leaves the last two up for grabs among Wawrinka, Gasquet and Tsonga. And it will come down to Paris next week. If had to pick I think Stan gets bumped by the Frenchmen.
FRIDAY BASEL SCHEDULE
CENTER COURT start 14:00
E Roger-Vasselin (FRA) vs D Brands (GER)
Not Before 16:00
I Dodig (CRO) vs V Pospisil (CAN)
Not Before 18:00
 J Del Potro (ARG) vs [Q] P Mathieu (FRA)
Not Before 20:00
 G Dimitrov (BUL) vs  R Federer (SUI)
 M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) vs L Dlouhy (CZE) / P Hanley (AUS)
FRIDAY VALENCIA SCHEDULE
GORA start 13:00
J Nieminen (FIN) vs M Youzhny (RUS)
D Tursunov (RUS) vs J Chardy (FRA)
 D Ferrer (ESP) vs  J Janowicz (POL)
Not Before 20:00
 N Almagro (ESP) vs  F Fognini (ITA)
J Isner (USA) / F Lopez (ESP) vs  A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA)
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