After seven losses and a going down a quick set to Roger Federer, things did not look good at all for Grigor Dimitrov at the US Open Tuesday night. The Bulgarian who has seen his ranking drop out of the Top 70 was desperate for some sort of statement win to repair his fledgling confidence.
He arrived in the quarters almost by mishap, getting a walkover from the favored Borna Coric in the second round, then taking advantage of a very good draw. But today was supposed to the end, instead, it could mark a new beginning.
After dropping the first, Dimitrov broke Federer early in the second and somehow hung on as Federer began pile up the error count.
But Roger got back on top in the third and appeared to be in control again up two sets to one.
Things shifted again in the fourth as Dimitrov went ahead while Federer fell apart. And by the end of the set, he fell apart physically as well. Federer left the court during a near-10 minute break to get treatment for what he later said was an upper back issue. When he returned Dimitrov went back to work and swiftly took care of the 38-year-old to earn the biggest win of his career, a 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over the 5-time champion.
“It’s been a while since I played on that court, so in the first set I was a little nervous and I was just trying to find my rhythm around the court,” Dimitrov told the crowd. “He was serving really good, as he did throughout the whole match. The only thing I was telling myself was to stay in the match. I knew physically I was feeling really, really good.”
Federer, who hasn’t won the US Open since 2008, finished with 61 unforced errors and broke just 4-of-14.
“I just needed some treatment on my upper back, neck. Just needed to try to loosen it up, crack it and see if it was going to be better,” Federer said.
“I was able to play. It’s okay. It’s how it goes. I tried my best. By far not too bad to give up or anything. Grigor was able to put me away. I fought with what I had. That’s it. So it’s okay.
“It’s Grigor’s moment, not my body’s moment.”
Federer was one set from not having to face Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.
Just disappointed it’s over because I did feel like I was actually playing really well after a couple of rocky starts,” he said. “It’s just a missed opportunity to some extent that you’re in the lead, you can get through, you have two days off after. It was looking good.
Dimitrov will now play Daniil Medvedev who overcame a first set quad injury to beat Federer’s friend and former champion Stan Wawrinka 7-6(6), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
Medvedev came in having won 18 of 20 matches during a very busy last few months, and looked weary early. After a trainer visit to wrap his thigh, the big 23-year-old Russian was struggling to chase balls. But once the wrapping was cut, he settled down and forced the Wawrinka into error and error, and Medvedev earned his first trip to a Slam semifinal.
“I had a big pain in my quadriceps and I thought I wasn’t going to be able to continue the match in the first set,” Medvedev said on court. “I saw that it was bothering Stan because I know how it is to play an injured player. It’s tough because you try to just put the ball in and then the guy starts to get everything. So I feel really strange about this match, but I am happy to be in my first major semi.”
Wawrinka couldn’t take advantage of the big Djokovic win.
“I think in general he’s playing really well,” Wawrinka said. “He’s really solid. He has a tough game to play. I didn’t start well. I never really found the right rhythm. I wanted to play between staying back and being offensive. I didn’t serve so well… He was there when he need it, and he was the better player today.
“He’s showing the last few weeks that anything can happen with him, so for sure he’s going to have a shot. He just need two more matches.”
Medvedev and Dimitrov have split two meetings. The winner of this one on Friday moves on to their first Slam final.
Tomorrow, Gael Monfils will meet Italian big man Matteo Berrettini for a first time. Then in the evening, Rafael Nadal, who has won 24 of his last 25 matches, takes on Diego Schwartzman. Nadal leads the Argentine 7-0.
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