Grigor Dimitrov goes in search of a second grand slam semi-final appearance when he faces first-time tournament quarter-finalist David Goffin at the 2017 Australian Open on Wednesday.
A massive opportunity has opened up for 11th seed Goffin and 15th seed Dimitrov to reach the Australian Open semi-finals after Novak Djokovic was stunned in the second round by Denis Istomin.
Dimitrov, who has started the year in supreme fashion, did what Djokovic couldn’t and knocked out wildcard Istomin in four sets in the Round of 16 on Monday, although it must be said the Uzbek was clearly injured for the last two sets of the Bulgarian’s 2-6 7-6(2) 6-2 6-1 victory on Margaret Court Arena.
It’s looking increasingly likely that Dimitrov will be making a push back towards the top 10 in 2017. The 25-year-old’s resurgence can be traced back to just after Wimbledon - the scene of his only major semi-final incidentally - when he made the quarter-finals of the Toronto Masters and then the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters. A run to the Round of 16 of the US Open (lost to Andy Murray) was solid enough, with Dimitrov then going on to reach the semi-finals of Chengdu and final of the ATP 500 tournament in Beijing (lost to Murray again).
After a full pre-season working alongside new coach Dani Vallverdu, Dimitrov came out firing at the Brisbane International, defeating three top 10 players in Dominic Thiem, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori to win his first ATP title in almost three years. It was also the first time Dimitrov had conquered three top 10 players in the same tournament. Dimitrov has continued his unblemished start to 2017 in Melbourne, coming through the likes of Christopher O’Connell, Hyeon Chung, Richard Gasquet (a match that finished at 2.00am) and Istomin to register a nine-match winning streak to start the year and secure his spot in just his third grand slam quarter-final - and his second Australian Open quarter-final in the last three years.
“I haven't done anything different in my off-season,” said Dimitrov.
"I think I was just very, very composed, and I had a good structure with my team. We were focusing I think on the right things. I've learned a lot of new things about myself, I think, starting to work with Dani [Vallverdu], my coach.
"It was just nice that he came at a good time, the end of last year. As soon as the off-season was on, it was just very simple. We had quite a few big talks. We discussed what we can do better, what we need to work on, what we need to improve, and how we want to be in 2017.”
While much of the talk in the lead-up to this unexpected quarter-final has surrounded Dimitrov, we must remember that David Goffin is actually the higher-ranked player and seed of the two.
David Goffin (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Goffin showcased tremendous fight to withstand an early onslaught from eighth seed Dominic Thiem on Monday, battling to claim a close second set in a tiebreak, and from there, the diminutive Belgian capitalised on the Austrian’s sluggish play in the 35 degree conditions to finish strongly and complete a 5-7 7-6(4) 6-2 6-2 triumph.
It’s the first time Goffin has advanced to the Australian Open quarter-finals, while he is also the first man from Belgium to reach the last eight in Melbourne.
“I’m tired, but feeling so happy. It was a really good match,” said Goffin after the match.
“I’m so happy that I found my way to find a solution in the second set. I served really well and then played two really good sets in the third and fourth.”
Goffin avenged his loss to Thiem from last year’s Roland Garros quarter-finals and also recorded his second straight win over the Austrian in Melbourne having also upstaged him in the third round last year. A second grand slam quarter-final is a just reward for the hard-working Goffin, who experienced a career-best season in 2016 where he made the Tokyo final, semi-finals at Indian Wells, Miami, Metz and Antwerp, along with quarter-final finishes at Marseille, Munich, Rome, Roland Garros, Halle and Shanghai.
Dimitrov has won all four of their previous meetings, although three of them were on the Futures and Challenger circuit and their last clash was at the 2014 US Open.