Grigor Dimitrov has not had it easy of late, winning just two of his past eight matches heading into this year’s Rogers Cup in Toronto. It had been a torrid stretch for the Bulgarian, having started the season at No. 3 in the ATP Rankings.
But after toughing out a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(5) second-round victory against Fernando Verdasco, a player who had beaten him twice already this year, Dimitrov has cause for optimism. The No. 5 seed will attempt to win back-to-back matches for the first time since Roland-Garros when he meets #NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe for a place in the Rogers Cup quarter-finals on Thursday.
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Nadal vs Wawrinka | Djokovic vs Tsitsipas | Dimitrov vs Tiafoe
For Dimitrov, it would be a much-needed injection of confidence as he looks to turn around his season and qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals again, where he is the defending champion.
“Sometimes one, two, three matches, it can really turn it around for you again,” Dimitrov said on the eve of his Rogers Cup campaign. “If you stay compact, stay smart and do the right things you just never know when the tables might turn for you.”
That hard-fought triumph over Verdasco could yet prove to be his turning point. But against the 20-year-old Tiafoe, Dimitrov faces an opponent brimming with confidence and shooting for his place in a maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final. The pair has never met.
Tiafoe followed up his opening-round victory over Marco Cecchinato with an impressive win over home hopeful and former World No. 3 Milos Raonic in the second round on Wednesday.
In another first-time FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, four-time champion Novak Djokovic will square off against #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas for a place in the quarter-finals. While not at his best in a straight-sets victory over Canadian wild card Peter Polansky on Wednesday, Djokovic is riding a surge in confidence thanks to his fourth Wimbledon crown.
In one of the most contested rivalries on the ATP World Tour this season, Tsitsipas posted his second win on Wednesday from five FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with No. 7 seed Dominic Thiem in 2018. The 19-year-old is through to the third round at a Masters 1000 event for the first time.
“Playing Novak, I practised almost like a thousand times with him,” Tsitsipas said. “It’s going to be an interesting match. Obviously he’s a favourite, I’m pretty sure about it. Everybody is expecting him to win. So I’ll just play my game, be patient. There are going to be few opportunities in the match. I just need to use my chances as correct as possible and not hurry at all.”
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In arguably the highest-profile match of the third round, top seed and three-time champion Rafael Nadal will take on former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka for a place in the quarter-finals. The most recent outing between the pair was played out in last year’s Roland Garros final, where Nadal extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head record against the Swiss to 16-3.
Wawrinka played just two matches on grass after that final before calling time on his 2017 season due to injury. Two successful knee surgeries later he is beginning to rediscover his form.
On Wednesday, he saved four match points against Martin Fucsovics to back up his opening-round triumph over Nick Kyrgios. Nadal dropped just five games in his first match since Wimbledon to defeat Frenchman Benoit Paire.
“This kind of meeting is always a very tough opponent,” Nadal said. “And it’s a match that we played two times in a Grand Slam final. So, yeah, it’s going to be an important and tough match hopefully for both of us.”