Grigor Dimitrov’s attempt to return to the top ten got a big boost on Saturday as the former world number eight took out the current world number three and defending Brisbane International champion Milos Raonic in the semifinals. Raonic, the top seed in Brisbane, was looking to reach a third straight final but was outserved by the Bulgarian, who booked his spot in the final with a 7-6(7), 6-2 victory.
Serving battle goes to Dimitrov
There was little between the two men throughout the opening set as not only did neither player face a break point on their own serve, but there was not even a single deuce in the opening set as both men dominated their own service games. Even in the points, there was nothing between the two as they matched each other error for error, winner for winner, and amazing shot for amazing shot.
A tiebreak was needed and it was dramatic in a very different way. Dimitrov came out flying, winning both of Raonic’s first two service points to take a 3-0 lead. But the top seed responded with a pair of forehand winners on the Bulgarian’s serve and then crushed an overhead to level at 3-3. After another exchange of minibreaks, Raonic would hold the first set point at 6-5, but Dimitrov saved it with a forehand winner. The Canadian would then save a set point with a volley, but Dimitrov was not to be denied as he would bring up a second, this time on his serve, and Raonic netted a routine forehand to hand the set to the seventh seed.
Dimitrov races into final
The momentum seemed to be in the Bulgarian’s corner to start the second set, as Dimitrov was starting to make inroads on the Raonic serve. In the third game, he managed to push the Canadian to deuce for the first time in the match, although he could not take advantage and Raonic held for a 2-1 lead. Dimitrov would hold for 2-2.
Finally, in the fifth game of the second set, Dimitrov brought up the first break points of the match as he took a 15-40 lead on the top seed’s serve. Raonic saved the first two with his raw power, but netted a forehand on the third to give Dimitrov the lead. Two games later, the Bulgarian would break again, this time to love to stretch his lead to 5-2. Dimitrov held in the following game, ending the match by winning the last five games in a row and 14 of the last 16 points, booking his spot in the final in just under 90 minutes.
By the numbers
The two men were dead even on aces, 4-4, a low number for both, but Raonic’s first serve percentage was costly. While the top seed won 86 percent of his first serve points, he only put 46 percent of his first serves in play and only won 48 percent of his second serve points. Dimitrov was far stronger on serve, winning 75 percent of his first serve points and an impressive 82 percent of second serve points, only losing four of those. The Bulgarian, who broke twice on four opportunities, did not face a break point in the match.
Dimitrov will contest his second career Brisbane final on Sunday when he takes on Kei Nishikori.