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Defiant Dimitrov raises profile with Djokovic scalp

ESPN staff
May 7, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Grigor Dimitrov picked up a big win in Madrid © Getty Images
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Grigor Dimitrov picked up one of the biggest wins of his fledgling professional career with a 6-7(6) 7-6(8) 6-3 triumph over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the Mutua Madrid Open on Tuesday.

In a match that saw both players refuse to give an inch - and thus needing to call the trainer at least once each for their troubles - Dimitrov ultimately outlasted his vaunted opponent to move into the third round.

It was an eye-catching win that the man often called 'Baby Federer' had been threatening for a while - especially after he pushed Rafael Nadal all the way in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters.

The groundstrokes were similarly impressive in Spain on Tuesday, but there was an extra resolve to Dimitrov's play that ultimately served him well come crunch time. Locked together over the course of the opening two sets - Djokovic perhaps should have edged the first stanza, but Dimitrov then had the upper hand in the second - in the end it came down to who was stronger in the Madrid heat, and world No. 28 Dimitrov stepped up to the plate as he got the match's pivotal break.

The first set went with serve for much of the contest, but it looked like Djokovic had perhaps been toying with his young opponent as he suddenly devoured Dimitrov's serve at 4-5 in the set. Having engineered a set point, however, Djokovic (correctly) overruled a poor line call on a long passing shot, allowing Dimitrov to fight on.

The Bulgarian would indeed do that - duly earning a tiebreak - and then performed a similar trick; racing back from 4-6 down in that breaker to eventually take it 8-6.

Dimitrov is unbeaten in 2013 when he has won the first set - but he has not done that often against a player of Djokovic's calibre. The second set was a similarly tense affair, with Djokovic falling behind even before twisting his angle during a hugely competitive point. That led him to call for the trainer, causing a delay that he would seem to benefit from more than his opponent.

Following a break back, Djokovic duly stole the tiebreak - sending such a close-fought contest to its inevitable conclusion. But, unlike so many such contests before him, Dimitrov would not wilt under the pressure of facing such a talented rival; claiming an early break and holding on to clinch a victory that clearly meant everything to him.

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