Sofia R2 previews and predictions: Dimitrov vs. Janowicz, Muller vs. Youzhny

Grigor Dimitrov will be back in action for the first time since an epic Australian Open semifinal loss to Rafael Nadal when he takes the court against Jerzy Janowicz on Thursday in Bulgaria. Second-round action is also featuring Gilles Muller and Mikhail Youzhny.

(3) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (PR) Jerzy Janowicz

Dimitrov and Janowicz will be squaring off for the third time in their careers when they clash in round two of the Sofia Open on Thursday. The head-to-head series is all tied up at one win apiece, with Janowicz having prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 at the 2014 Cincinnati Masters before Dimitrov got the job done 6-3, 7-6(4) one season later on the red clay of Rome. The Bulgarian has home-court advantage this time around in Sofia and he also owns a significant edge in current form. Up to No. 13 in the world, Dimitrov is coming off a semifinal performance at the Australian Open–where he fell to Rafael Nadal in a five-set thriller.

Janowicz has been mostly absent from the tour over the past few years due to physical problems. The 6’8” Pole is down at 267th in the world and obviously had to use a protected ranking in order to gain automatic entry into this main draw. Janowicz made the most of it on Wednesday, when he opened with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Dudi Sela. That victory marked the former world No. 14’s first at the ATP level since October of 2015 in Vienna. Asking Janowicz to picked up a second consecutive win at the expense of a red-hot Dimitrov is likely way too much.

Pick: Dimitrov in 2

(5) Gilles Muller vs. Mikhail Youzhny

Previously one of the best players to have never captured an ATP title, Muller put an end to that by triumphing last month in Sydney. One spot off his career-high at 29th in the rankings, the 33-year-old Luxembourgian is in position to be seeded for upcoming Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami. He is 7-2 during this 2017 campaign following a 6-3, 6-2 victory over qualifier Matthias Bourgue on Tuesday.

Up next for Muller on Thursday is a sixth career meeting with Youzhny, who trails the head-to-head series 3-2. The 34-year-old Russian won their first two encounters but Muller is 3-0 against him dating back to the start of 2012. Their most recent showdown last summer on the grass of Nottingham saw Muller emerge victorious via a 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 6-3 decision. Youzhny earned another shot at his fellow veteran by taking out lucky loser Marko Tepavac 7-6(4), 6-2 during first-round action on Tuesday. The world No. 89 continues to struggle with injury issues and he will be at an even greater disadvantage against Muller on a fast indoor hard court.

Pick: Muller in 2

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