After five long years of failing to make it past the second round in Rome, Grigor Dimitrov is back in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014. The Bulgarian fought back from a set and break down to defeat the extremely dangerous Jannik Sinner, but not without some help from the Italian on match point. You have to think Sinner (or anyone for that matter) wins this point 99/100 times.
Dimitrov looks right at home, despite the quick transition from hard to clay. His unforced errors are down and his movement appears as crisp as ever. His Saturday opponent, Denis Shapovalov, has also tightened up the screws on his ground game with coach Mikhail Youhzhny in his corner.
After losing the first set in a tiebreak against Ugo Humbert, the Canadian took full control of the match. While the 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4 scoreline indicates a close, hard-fought victory, Shapovalov was dominant in the final two sets, losing just seven total points on serve.
This match is shaping up to be a high-quality affair between two of the most talented players on tour. Shapovalov has struggled against Dimitrov in the past, unable to win a set in either of their past two meetings in Toronto and Rotterdam. But Shapovalov has yet to play Dimitrov in his new and improved form.
According to UTR, this match should be a close one. Shapovalov owns the advantage in their three-month trending rating, while Dimitrov has a slight edge in their clay court rating. Both players possess incredible shot-making ability, but discipline and rally tolerance will likely end up being the key to this match.
According to the oddsmakers, this match is a toss-up, but judging by his 6-1, 6-0 destruction of Yoshihito Nishioka, and confidence building comeback win against one of the game’s fastest rising stars, look for Dimitrov to outlast Shapovalov for the third straight time, and return to Rome’s semifinal round for the first time in six years.
The Pick: Grigor Dimitrov