ATP Brisbane: Grigor Dimitrov narrowly avoids seed exodus

Defending champion Grigor Dimitrov kicked off his title defense in dramatic fashion on Thursday, saving match points on his way to the quarterfinals in Brisbane.

ATP Brisbane: Grigor Dimitrov narrowly avoids seed exodus
Grigor Dimitrov prepares to serve on Thursday in Brisbane. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

The quarterfinal field was wrapped up at the Brisbane International on Thursday, but not before the defending champion very nearly joined six other seeded players on the sidelines. Three of the tightest contests of the tournament were contested as the final second-round matches were wrapped up. Here’s what happened on day five in Brisbane.

Results

All eyes were on defending champion Grigor Dimitrov, who was making his return to the event that kicked off his career year in 2017. Dimitrov did not come out of the gate playing the same tennis that saw him climb to number three in the world and win the ATP Finals last season, needing to save two match points in his opening match with local wildcard John Millman. The Bulgarian got off to a quick start, breaking for an early lead in the third game. However, Millman responded quickly, breaking right back in the very next game. As Dimitrov served to stay in the set at 4-5, he was broken again to drop the opening set.

Dimitrov lines up a backhand volley during his season debut in Brisbane. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Dimitrov lines up a backhand volley during his season debut in Brisbane. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

The second set followed a similar script, with the top seed breaking first only to have Millman break right back in the following game. This time, Dimitrov managed to force a tiebreak but found himself down match point at 5-6. An epic rally ensued, which the Bulgarian won with a stabbing volley to keep himself in the match. A big forehand saved a second match point before Dimitrov converted his second set point to win the breaker 10-8 and force a deciding set. In the third, the defending champion again claimed the first break but this time did not hand it right back, riding the lone break into the quarterfinals.

In the last eight, Dimitrov will meet Kyle Edmund, who snapped a six-match losing streak against Hyeon Chung to book his spot in the quarters. The Brit took the opening set in a tiebreak before claiming an early break in the second to put himself in a strong position to end the losing streak. But Chung would roar back, reclaiming the break to level at 3-3 before scoring another break at the end of the set to level the match. The tight third set was decided in the seventh game when Edmund converted the first break point of the set to take the lead. Chung did not let the match slip away, saving a pair of match points at 3-5, but he could not find a solution to the Brit who would claim victory on his third match point. Edmund won 82 percent of his first serve points, struck 12 aces to Chung’s 11, and limited his opponent to three break points. The match took two hours and 38 minutes.

Kyle Edmund strikes a backhand during his second round win. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Kyle Edmund strikes a backhand during his second round win. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

American Ryan Harrison took advantage of Andy Murray’s withdrawal to reach the quarterfinals, beating lucky loser Yannick Hanfmann to reach the last eight. It was Hanfmann who got off to the quicker start, claiming an early break before eventually taking the opening set in a tiebreak. But Harrison would rally and seize control of the match, saving the only three break points he faced in the final two sets while scoring three breaks of serve, one in the second and two in the third, to book his place in the quarters with a 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2 victory. The American fired 19 aces, won 80 percent of his first serve points and saved eight of nine break points against his own serve. Hanfmann only won 36 percent of his second serve points and was broken four times on 11 break points.

Denis Istomin rounds out the quarterfinal field after defeating American young gun Jared Donaldson in straight sets. Donaldson’s serve let him down in the match, only putting 49 percent of his first serves into play, double-faulting nine times, only winning 41 percent of his second serve points, and was broken four times. Istomin only won 44 percent of his second serve points, but fired six aces and saved five of the seven break points that he faced. Twice in the opening set, Istomin reclaimed breaks immediately after being broken before winning the set in a tiebreak. He would break twice in the second for a 7-6(5), 6-2 victory.

The quarterfinals will take place on Friday.