One couldn’t wipe the grin off Grigor Dimitrov’s face Friday at the ABN AMRO Open in Rotterdam. And for good reason.

The Bulgarian staved off two match points to dampen Alex de Minaur's 24th birthday, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (6), in the quarterfinals of the ATP 500 event. For every exchange shared between the two, the best was saved for last with a dramatic finishing touch.

Having earlier recovered from 5-6, 15-30 in the third set, De Minaur reached 6-4 in the decisive tiebreaker by trusting himself to shrink the court and close at net. After missing the forehand he was looking for off a serve +1 on the following point, De Minaur was once again in position to end proceedings by moving Dimitrov from corner to corner. Yet the combination of Dimitrov making effective defensive replies and De Minaur’s instincts to get forward vanishing saw the Australian dump a backhand into the net on the 20th shot of the tense-filled rally.

Once the two traded sides, another backhand error—this time long—put De Minaur up against the wall. Down 6-7, he opted to come in. Dimitrov never wavered, and though forced to hustle forward off De Minaur’s second volley, the former world No. 3 answered with a low-slicing backhand crosscourt. The shot selection gave Dimitrov enough time to spring back for a play on his opponent’s deep push. The result: an incredible flat forehand passing winner that caught a piece of the line.

Dimitrov is now 16-8 in Rotterdam since winning his debut 14 years ago over Tomas Berdych.

Dimitrov is now 16-8 in Rotterdam since winning his debut 14 years ago over Tomas Berdych.


Dimitrov was uncertain if he clinched the victory, but technology soon verified the winning hot shot.

“I needed that one. When you have those Hawkeyes, you don’t know what’s gonna happen, which shot is gonna come in,” he told the World Feed afterwards. “When I hit it, it felt really well. I wasn’t sure if it caught the line, so until it was confirmed, I didn’t want to shake his hand. I’m very thankful.

“I fought my hard out til the end. Was 6-4 down. He had even a few opportunities in those points. He didn’t take them. I had opportunities early on again to do something, I didn’t take them. Matches like that, you just gotta stay in it. Against him, a little bit more. He’s one of the greatest competitors out there.”

Dimitrov is looking to end a title drought dating back to his biggest career triumph at the 2017 ATP Finals. A hopeful reprise in the winners’ circle won’t get any easier Saturday when he faces Daniil Medvedev.

The No. 6 seed dispatched defending champion Felix Auger-Aliassime, 6-2, 6-4, and will return to the Top 10 if he gets past Dimitrov. Medvedev has taken four of their six previous clashes.

“If we take last two matches, it’s one all,” pointed out Medvedev. “I always say a new match is a new match no matter [the] head-to-head. So I’m preparing for a tough one tomorrow.”

Last week’s Montpellier titlist Jannik Sinner maintained his hot hand, outclassing Stan Wawrinka, 6-1, 6-3. The Italian will meet local favorite Tallon Griekspoor, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over countryman Gijs Brouwer.