The final match in the Rod Laver Arena on Saturday could be one of the best of the day, with 15th seed Grigor Dimitrov facing 18th seed Richard Gasquet for a place in the fourth round at the Australian Open; this is a huge opportunity for both, following Novak Djokovic’s loss to Denis Istomin in this section of the draw.
It is Gasquet who controls the head to head, leading it 5-1, though Dimitrov won their last meeting, in Shanghai last year, in straight sets and comes into the tournament following his run to the title in Brisbane.
The winner of this match will face either 30th seed Pablo Carreno Busta or Istomin in the fourth round.
So far in Melbourne
It has certainly been an easier path for Gasquet, with the Frenchman yet to drop a set.
The 18th seed has certainly been impressive so far. He started against Australian qualifier Blake Mott, who he saw off 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in a solid performance. However, he raised his level in the second round, putting in one of his best performances of the past few months as he stormed past Carlos Berlocq 6-1, 6-1, 6-1; Gasquet will be tough to beat if he plays like that.
Meanwhile, things haven’t been as simple for Dimitrov. The Bulgarian started against Australian wildcard Christopher O’Connell, surviving a tough first set to eventually prevail 7-6, 6-3, 6-3. The 15th seed got off to an atrocious start in his second round match against Hyeon Chung, eventually beating the Korean 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4; he will need to improve on that performance.
Based on his last performance, Dimitrov will most likely need to improve to have a strong chance of beating a seemingly in-form Gasquet. The 15th seed must serve well and must avoid playing too many shots to Gasquet’s lethal one-handed backhand, which is stronger than his own. The Bulgarian will, however, be very confident following his recent run of form, and will not be afraid to attack as much as possible and play fearless tennis. Furthermore, the Frenchman can be erratic, meaning Dimitrov could have opportunities to take advantage of.
If he plays like he did against Berlocq, Gasquet has a big chance of winning, though must consistently bring that level against an opponent who will be confident after recent results and will be looking to improve on his last performance. The Frenchman should look to attack as much as possible with his backhand, which will likely win him many points, though must be careful of being too aggressive; he can make too many errors, and Dimitrov will most likely be able to take advantage of them.
This looks set to be a close encounter and should be beautiful to watch if both are playing well. No result in this match, from a one-sided three sets win to a tight five-set battle, should be a surprise, considering how erratic both can be, though it seems it should be tight. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all if Gasquet came through this, but Dimitrov has had a strong start to the year and it seems he will just edge this.
Prediction: Grigor Dimitrov in five sets