Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov have been going in different directions of late, but they are both trying to head into the Rotterdam quarterfinals on Thursday. They are set for respective showdowns against Gilles Simon and Denis Istomin.
Gilles Simon vs. (2) Dominic Thiem
The 2016 campaign ended poorly for Thiem and this season got off to a slow start, but the 23-year-old Austrian may have picked up some much-needed momentum at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament on Wednesday. Thiem battled back from a set down to defeated recent Montpellier champion Alexander Zverev 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Still, the world No. 8 is just 6-4 in 2017 and coming off a disconcerting loss to Nikoloz Basilashvili in his Sofia opener.
Up next for Thiem on Thursday is a sixth career meeting with Simon, who trails the head-to-head series 3-2. Simon had won two in a row at Thiem’s expense before a retirement loss at the 2015 Rome Masters and a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 setback in the Metz semifinals last fall. Simon is no longer in peak form at 32 years old, but he still registers at a decent 24th in the rankings. The Frenchman improved to a solid but unspectacular 4-2 this season by outlasting compatriot Nicolas Mahut 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday. A slight surface advantage on an indoor hard court goes to Simon, who is not the kind of player anyone who is struggling with consistency from the baseline wants to face.
Pick: Simon in 3
(5) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (LL) Denis Istomin
Roger Federer is obviously the current Player of the Year as the sole owner of a Grand Slam title (Australian Open), but Dimitrov has been the absolute best on tour over an extended period of time. The 12th-ranked Bulgarian is 15-1 this season with titles in Brisbane and Sofia to go along with a semifinal showing in Melbourne. Last week’s run to the Sofia winner’s trophy featured victories over Basilashvili, Jerzy Janowicz, Viktor Troicki, and David Goffin. Dimitrov maintained his hot streak by overcoming Mischa Zverev 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday.
Not many guys made as much noise as Dimitrov Down Under, but Istomin at least came close. The 76th-ranked Uzbek unquestionably altered the course of the tournament by stunning Novak Djokovic in the second round on his way to the last 16. Istomin’s Rotterdam campaign is also off to an an interesting start. He lost to Aljaz Bedene in the final round of qualifying on Sunday, got a lucky loser spot in the main draw after Roberto Bautista Agut withdrew, played Bedene approximately 24 hours later on Monday, and beat the Brit 6-3, 7-6(3). Istomin is 0-2 lifetime at the ATP level against Dimitrov, with setbacks at the 2014 Shanghai Masters and in four sets at the recent Aussie Open. There is no reason to think the underdog will suddenly turn the tide against such a red-hot opponent.
Pick: Dimitrov in 2