Grigor Dimitrov earns battling victory over Dominic Thiem on ATP Finals debut
By Mathieu Wood
Last Updated: 14/11/17 3:40pm
Grigor Dimitrov marked his first appearance at the ATP Finals with a battling three-set victory over fellow debutant Dominic Thiem at The O2 on Monday.
The 26-year-old Bulgarian, who has claimed three titles this season, comes into the season finale as the world No 6 on the back of his most consistent campaign of his career.
Dimitrov opened his charge in London with a determined 6-3 5-7 7-5 win over his Austrian counterpart, who is ranked two places higher in the rankings.
VOTE: Who will win the ATP Finals?
Nadal, Federer, Zverev, Thiem, Cilic, Dimitrov, Goffin & Sock. Pick your winner...
Dimitrov, the Cincinnati Masters champion, suffered a last-16 exit in his previous tournament appearance at the Paris Masters but showed no signs of early nerves in a hard-hitting encounter.
Meanwhile, Thiem arrived at the season-ending tournament lacking in confidence after a disappointing second half of the season, including early exits on his past four tournament appearances.
Both players began the encounter hitting the ball crisply from the baseline but Thiem was the first to be broken in the sixth game of the match and Dimitrov maintained the advantage to close out the opening set without facing a single break point.
Thiem grew in confidence as the match progressed into the second set and thanks to a higher percentage of first serves put the pressure on Dimitrov's shoulders, who was broken in the 12th game of the second set to force the decider.
The final set continued to see both players produce some high-quality tennis and the 24-year-old Austrian was forced to save two break points to move 3-2 ahead.
However, he was unable to repeat the feat on his next service game as a deft drop volley secured the break for Dimitrov, who was broken when he served when he served for the match but Dimitrov immediately retrieved the break of serve and at the second opportunity eventually closed out the match.
Shot of the match
Dimitrov living the dream
"I am not going to lie, I was pretty nervous - it was my first match out here," Dimitrov said during his courtside interview with Annabel Croft. "I am just very grateful to win that match, especially in that manner. Entering into this tournament was a dream of mine and it wasn't just to compete - I want to win. Things seem to be going the right way so far."
Thiem stands so far behind the baseline that he takes the pressure of his opponents. He gives them time to recover their court position and it just doesn’t allow him to hit as many winners.
Thiem plays every week of the year - when does he ever take any time off to build and develop his game? You can't continuously play all those matches because you are going to break down physically at times.
Thiem will need to pick up a win against Pablo Carreno Busta, who comes in for the injured Rafael Nadal, while a victory for Dimitrov against David Goffin would virtually put him in the semi-finals.
Thiem v Dimitrov: Match stats
|80%||1st serve win percentage||77%|
|51%||2nd serve win percentage||56%|
|9/11||Net points won||19/24|
|92||Total points won||98|
The season-ending extravaganza ATP Finals at London's O2 in November ends another memorable year which will be covered via our website www.skysports.com/tennis with live blogs and updates as the season reaches its climax.
On the move? Head to our app for mobile devices and iPad, or follow our Twitter account @SkySportsTennis to join in the conversation. Who will win the World Tour Finals this year? Have your say...
Tennis updates straight to your phone
How to receive all the latest tennis news straight to your mobile