By Kevin Ware
(August 15, 2013) MASON, Ohio – Grigor Dimitrov lost a tightly-contested match to Rafael Nadal 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 Thursday night at the Western and Southern Open. The loss was his third straight to Nadal after losses in Monte Carlo (’13) and Rotterdam (’09). It would be great if we could say that he’s getting closer to solving the Nadal puzzle, but there’s still a ways to go before that happens.
All three previous matches have gone the distance (three sets), and all have followed the same pattern of Dimitrov mounting a second set comeback only to lose in the third. This latest loss in Cincinnati even included two breaks of serve in each of the sets he lost; this on a night when he was serving at a respectable 73% overall on the night.
What will it take for Dimitrov to overcome the man of steel from Mallorca?
I had a chance to chat with Dimitrov immediately following the match, and was able to ask him about his physical condition (after a couple of injury scares during the match), his strategy going into this match, and what he thinks is needed in order to turn this pattern of defeats into a first win.
How are you feeling physically? You were grabbing at your chest sometimes during the match.
I thought I pulled a muscle in the second set on one return. So I was just struggling a little bit. But I went through the pain and had a good second set which was actually pretty good. Yeah, physically I’m not too bad anymore and I’m happy for that. It’s a positive thing.
Is it hard on your body running from side to side, covering as much court as Nadal makes you defend?
You know where he’s going to play, but the ball comes really fast. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, you just gotta go to the ball and get it back in the court. I think he has one of the best forehands. I mean, obviously it was just an unbelievable first set from him. Not much I can say about that. Definitely congrats and well, life goes on. Work even harder, and look forward to playing him again.
It looked like your game plan was to slice to Nadal’s forehand to keep the ball low, and attack his backhand. Did you feel you were successful in doing so?
I tried I think a lot of things in the first set but obviously it didn’t really work. He was making absolutely every single shot. I was just trying to find/see where I could find the gap, and there you go. I found the gap in the second set and had this momentum that I grabbed it. And he came out of the block pretty good in the third set so I couldn’t really do much. And even if I was serving 74% it wasn’t enough. I definitely will sit down with my coach and discuss that.
Was the effort that it took out of you to take the second set the difference in the third set? Was it hard to maintain that same level?
He started putting even more balls into the court. He was waiting for me to attack him. And here and there, I missed a few shots and that was the breaks. Even though the score was 6-2 almost every game was 30-40 or deuce or something like that. So the margin was pretty small. And at that level it just takes one or two points.
Given the loss, were you happy with how you played?
I wouldn’t say happy. One thing I’m happy physically. I feel quite alright and I’m still feeling good which is very positive to me. Last time I played him for two hours I was cramping a little bit. So that’s a positive thing. But other than that, of course. Playing against a guy like him, a Top 10 player in general, is always a pleasure. I always enjoy the battles. But I’m looking forward to really starting to give them even a harder time.
What do you think is the difference, that small delta you need to take a match like this?
I’ve done it once, I just need to find the same formula in the same way I’ve been preparing for consistency on and off the court and throughout all the weeks. It’s never easy to travel and come to the week playing then next week playing again. So if you have that good level, and after you raise up your low level, then when matches like this come you will definitely be more ready.
Are you going to take a few days off?
I say maybe one day is gonna be enough, and then looking forward to getting to the (US) Open.