By Tumaini Carayol
(May 7, 2013) MADRID – Under the burning lights and brash crowd of the Manolo Santana court, Grigor Dimitrov finally justified his “showtime” moniker, stealing the show by capturing the greatest victory of his career in a mammoth 7-6(6), 6-7(8), 6-3 victory over the world No. 1, Novak Djokovic at the Madrid Open on Tuesday evening.
From the beginning, the Bulgarian made his presence known as he complemented strong, assured serving with a steady flow of typically silky forehand winners. The first set would showcase a struggle for the upper-hand as the contest remained on serve though the underdog held the upper hand.
A set point presented itself for Djokovic at 4-5, but the opportunity quickly escaped. Once again, Djokovic found himself up 6-4 in the tiebreak, before some majestic play flipped the script and left the world No. 1 reeling as a young pretender stole the set.
The second act was defined by two incidents. At 7-6, *4-2, 30-40, Djokovic slipped and hurt his injured right ankle. A medical timeout followed as the crowd booed mercilessly. As he returned and ran freely, the boos and whistles rose as the crowd began to chant Dimitrov’s name.
The second incident occurred at 5-5 deuce Dimitrov predictably began to cramp. The Bulgarian hobbled into the tiebreak, and as his mobility returned, he pressed furiously for a straight sets victory, but failed.
In stark contrast to the prior two sets, the third set fell flat as Dimitrov broke in the opening game before marching on to victory.
Though undeniably angry, Djokovic was quick to praise his opponent afterwards.
“Well, he was the better player. The better player won the match, no question about it. You know, I could have played better. You know, I had my chances. I was fighting until the end, so that’s a positive thing. I always try to give my best in these moments, and he was the better player. I congratulate him. He played great tennis and he deserved to win.
The world No. 1 was, however, quick to mention the ankle injury he sustained during Davis Cup and left him without proper preparation.
“Well, for 12 days after Monte‑Carlo I haven’t touched the racquet. I didn’t know up to Saturday if I’m going to come here or not because of the ankle.
“But in the end, you know, I made the decision to come because I like to play in this tournament. You know, maybe could have been different; maybe not. Now it’s too late to think about what I decided.
Meanwhile, Dimitrov was ecstatic in victory.
“Of course it’s always great to win a match like that. Of course he’s the No. 1. Of course it’s a great feeling.”
“But it’s just the beginning of the tournament. It was just second round if you think about it, so just got to get ready for the next matches and make sure that you can do that again.”
Tumaini Carayol is in Madrid covering the Madrid Open for Tennis Panorama News. He is a contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault. Follow his tournament updates on @TennisNewsTPN and his personal twitter @TumCarayol.