In round one at Roland Garros on May 28th at the 2017 French Open, eleventh seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria beat Phillipe Robert of France, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. This was the third meeting of the pair with Dimitrov winning both times they met in 2011.
With the temperature at 93 degrees at the start of the match, both players looked for a quick start and Grigor faced three break points before holding serve. Both players held serve until Dimitrov broke serve at love in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead.
Dimitrov then held serve at love two straight games and broke again with Robert’s double fault to take the first set 6-2.
In set two, Grigor faced two break points in game three, and then broke Robert’s serve in the next game, and in the following Frenchman’s serve, to take a commanding 5-1 lead in the best three out of five set match.
Dimitrov appeared to lose interest, or Robert lulled him into complacency with his unorthodox style, but Robert broke Dimitrov’s serve and held his own convincingly before Grigor refocused in the ninth game to win set two 6-3 with an ace down the tee.
It appeared Robert gave his best in set two and he looked the worse for wear and suffering from the heat when he served to begin set three.
Dimitrov jumped on the opportunity, looking to get out the broiling heat of the Philippe Chatrier center court and opened set three with a break of serve, an easy hold at love, and then another break of serve.
Dimitrov then let up in game four to spot Robert with a 0-40 lead, but managed to regain composure with consistent serving, deep forehands, and sneaking into the net to get to deuce and finally holding serve for a 4-0 lead.
Robert finally held serve after three chances and got on the board in the possible final set.
But then Dimitrov lost focus again, displaying the lack of a killer instinct which has plagued him this spring, and not closing out matches when given the opportunity.
Robert broke at love with crisp, short backswing two hand backhands and surprising agility for his gangly frame, especially since it appeared as if he was suffering from heatstroke only minutes earlier.
Robert won three quick games and was back into the set when the overheated crowd started “the wave” on the changeover and maybe this got Dimitrov motivated and he held a tight service game to take a 5-3 lead and the held serve again to take the third and final set and the match, 6-2,6-3,6-4.
And although clay is not Grigor’s favorite surface, there’s no reason his fitness and skill level shouldn’t get him well into the second week of this grand slam event before preparing for the more favored grass court season and the grand slam of Wimbledon.
Written by Evan Fabricant
Photos by Dana Gardner
“Bulgaria SEGA” newspaper