ATP Paris: Novak Djokovic survives scare to defeat Grigor Dimitrov

Defending champion Novak Djokovic came through a tough 4-6 6-2 6-3 battle against Grigor Dimitrov to book his place in the BNP Paribas Masters quarterfinals. Djokovic will now face Marin Cilic for a place in the semifinals.

Djokovic was nowhere near the excellent level that we've come to expect from him in the opening set and Dimitrov took advantage, fighting through to take a set lead. The defending champion raised his level to break twice in the second set and bring the match back level. Another break at the start of the third left Dimitrov struggling with no way back as Djokovic sealed the match with no issues.

Taking advantage

A double fault gave Dimitrov a foothold on the return but Djokovic powered through to hold in the first game of the match. There were chances for Djokovic on the Dimitrov serve at 30-30 but the Bulgarian came through an impressive hold. Deep hitting from Dimitrov on the return gave him a 15-30 lead and a double fault from Djokovic brought up two break points for the Bulgarian. The first was lost as Dimitrov sent a backhand long and a fortunate return drew an error from Djokovic and the early break and a 2-1 lead went the way of Dimitrov. 

Djokovic took a lead on the return in the next game as Dimitrov was looking to consolidate his lead. An ace leveled the pair up at 30-30 and a big forehand down the line gave the Bulgarian a game point. A forehand error from Dimitrov after a long rally took them back to deuce but another ace brought up another game point. Dimitrov was still struggling to get out of the game as four-game points came and went and Djokovic fought for a break point. The first wasn't taken but the world number one took the second to bring the pair back on serve after a grueling fourteen-minute game.  

Dimitrov did well to stay with Djokovic in the rallies, eventually coming out on top to earn himself another break point. A huge serve from the Serb got him out of trouble and back to deuce but a backhand long brought up a second break point. Djokovic continued battling but a game point was wasted with a double fault. Another brutal game again went the way of the returner and Dimitrov regained his lead on his fourth break point.  

Dimitrov celebrates a point (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Dimitrov celebrates a point (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The break exchanges stopped as Dimitrov held on to consolidate his lead and go 4-2 ahead. The Bulgarian was playing very well at the net, coming up with a great volley to force the error from Djokovic and take a lead on return. An amazing chase down of a drop shot  from Dimitrov left the Serb in more danger on serve at 0-30. Djokovic raised the aggression from the baseline and took the next four points to hold on and stay within one break of Dimitrov.  

There was a short break during Dimitrov's next service game as confetti started to fall from above the scoreboard. The Bulgarian didn't lose focus and held on to force Djokovic to serve to stay in the set. An excellent passing shot got Dimitrov off to a lead on the return again, but the world number one recovered to take the impressive hold and force Dimitrov to serve for the set.  

Defending champion making a comeback

Djokovic took a better opening to the second set with an easy hold and followed up by breaking the Dimitrov serve from 15-40 down to take the early lead. The Serb then looked to be racing through to a 3-0 lead but Dimitrov battled from 40-15 down, reading the game extremely well to make a passing shot and take them to deuce. A double fault brought up a break back point for Dimitrov but Djokovic saved it with a great backhand winner crosscourt. Djokovic finally scraped through the hold after almost ten minutes.  

Djokovic hits a backhand (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Djokovic hits a backhand (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Dimitrov halted the Serb's momentum with a good hold, his first of the set. Djokovic then had a visit with the trainer as he took a tumble during the last point of Dimitrov's service game. Dimitrov tried to push through on return to reclaim the break but Djokovic survived and held on to take a 4-1 lead.  

The world number one cruised through a love hold to force Dimitrov to serve to stay in the set. The pressure got to Dimitrov as he was serving to stay in it and the Bulgarian handed the break and the second set to the defending champion with a double fault.  

Cruising to victory

 Djokovic sailed through the opening service game of the decider and Dimitrov faltered in the opening two points on serve to hand Djokovic a 0-30 lead. A huge serve took a little bit of the pressure off but a bad forehand miss gave Djokovic two break points. Dimitrov closed down the net to save the first but the second went the way of the Serb with a huge return to seal the early lead. 

Dimitrov had to work hard to get his first hold of the third set but he eventually did so in another tight game. The defending champion sailed through another hold as the chances of a comeback started to slip away for Dimitrov.  

Djokovic in action during the match (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Djokovic during the match (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Another service game was easily held by Djokovic as he went a game away from the win, Dimitrov looked dejected as his chances were quickly being erased but held once more to force the world number one to serve for it. Dimitrov gave everything he had left to try and steal the break back at the last moment, there were chances at 30-30 but a missed return gave Djokovic a match point. A bad forehand miss kept Dimitrov's hopes alive for a second longer at deuce but Djokovic recovered to earn another match point and the Bulgarian sent a return into the net to seal the Serb's place in the quarterfinals.