Grigor Dimitrov kicked off his 2017 season in impressive fashion by notching his third top ten win of the week to claim the Brisbane International title over Kei Nishikori. The Bulgarian had already defeated Dominic Thiem and Milos Raonic earlier in the week and capped it off in fine style with his first career win over Kei Nishikori 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.
Dazzling Dimitrov In Opener
The two provided an electric start to the match with some long, grueling rallies. Early on, Dimitrov was the one saving the break points but was able to manage to do that for a 2-1 lead. After one more Nishikori hold for 2-2, the set turned on its head for the Bulgarian.
For the first time in the match, the Bulgarian held with ease, holding at 15 and finishing it off with an ace. Dimitrov fought back as Nishikori led in his service game with some fantastic, aggressive ball striking to take the break after the Japanese number one netted a cross-court backhand.
It all looked to be going the Bulgarian’s way with a fantastic stab volley on Nishikori’s backhand pass at 4-2, 30-0 to get it to 40-0. The facet of attacking the net often instead of being passive on the short ball is the new dimension of the Bulgarian’s game which is catching people’s eyes this year. He moved up to a 5-2 lead and looked primed to close out the set and start the second with him serving.
On set point at 30-40, the two were trading groundstrokes and Dimitrov smartly started targeting the Nishikori forehand. The move paid off as the world number five hit a forehand into the net, prompting a loud “Come on!” from Dimitrov as he moved a set away from starting his season with a title.
Nishikori Fights Back
To kick off the second, the Bulgarian took his fifth straight game for an early 1-0 lead. The two held serve to start the first four games of the set, and just like in the first set, the fifth game turned the set on its head.
At 0-30 down, Dimitrov sprayed a forehand long, giving the world number five three break points to take control of the set. Nishikori would get that break after the Bulgarian hit a forehand wide.
It was as cool as you expected a top five player to be when consolidating his break; an ace and a serve and volley closed out the game for a 4-2 lead.
Dimitrov started to get a little wild in the second set and it showed. He hit a flick backhand down the line long to give the Japanese number one a break point and a wide forehand gave the second break to Nishikori. The former US Open finalist only needed one set point to close it out at 6-2 to force a decider.
Dimitrov Takes Decider
To start the third set, you could see Dimitrov’s intent was to start out aggressive to put Nishikori on the defensive. It paid off early on with a break point opportunity at 30-40, but it was saved by the world number five who held for 1-1. Dimitrov held for 2-1 at love with easy 1-2 punches.
Both men would hold to get it to three-all, but Dimitrov had a slight scare after Nishikori leveled the final set falling to the ground after trying to regain his balance when he lost his footing.
The Bulgarian made it another easy hold for 4-3 and down 30-0 on Nishikori’s serve, he began to attack. A few second serves from Nishikori saw Dimitrov pounce to get it to 30-all. Dimitrov’s shots all had an extra pop to them and that paid off as he forced Nishikori to spray a backhand long to give him a chance to serve for the match.
At 15-0, Nishikori netted an easily returnable ball and slammed his racket in frustration. He began to unravel, and it was clear as he set up a third match point for the Bulgarian with a netted forehand. Another forehand long from the world number five left Dimitrov in shock as he took the title.