No. 3 Match of the Year: Nadal vs. Dimitrov, Australian Open

The Grandstand has compiled its list of the Top 10 Matches of the Year for 2017. Matches were ranked from a combination of Top 10 lists made by the Grandstand’s Ricky Dimon, Joey Hanf of Cliff Drysdale Tennis, voting at MensTennisForums, and Twitter user Ben Conti.

No. 3: Rafael Nadal d. Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4, Australian Open semifinals

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer turned back the clock to be the dominant figures on the ATP Tour throughout the 2017 campaign. It was only fitting that the season unofficially began with a Grand Slam final between the two all-time greats. But Grigor Dimitrov almost had something to say about that.

Twenty-four hours earlier, Stan Wawrinka had thrown everything he had at his fellow Swiss. Dimitrov delivered arguably an even better performance on Friday night than Wawrinka had on Thursday, but Nadal–like Federer before him–came up with the goods time and time again in the face of his challenger’s relentless onslaught.

A tense, back-and-forth first four sets did nothing to separate the two competitors. It was Nadal who started fast, staying on serve by saving two break points in the opening game and then earning a break of his own at 2-1 that ultimately decided the set. A messier second frame of play saw a total of five breaks, with the Spaniard twice battling back from a break down. But he had no opportunity to recover from a third service donation, because that ended the set at 5-6.

The stage became set for a decisive fifth after Nadal and Dimitrov traded tiebreakers in the third and fourth sets, respectively. It was a fifth set that overdosed on tension, even though it did not become the kind of marathon that the Australian Open faithful have enjoyed and perhaps even expected over the last decade. Break points were the story. Dimitrov saved three right off the bat to hold for 1-0 before Nadal fought off one as he answered his opponent’s effort. By the time it was 1-1, more than 20 minutes had elapsed. The Bulgarian saved another break point at 2-2 and Nadal thwarted a pair at 3-4. Finally, the 2009 Aussie Open champion capitalized on a chance when he rifled a down-the-line backhander winner at 4-4, 30-40.

Nadal went on to serve things out without too much drama. He missed a match point at 40-30 and another on his ad, but a third opportunity was converted when Dimitrov sailed a backhand just past the baseline.

With that, Nadal vs. Federer–which became a classic in its own right–was on.

Highlights:

“I think Grigor played great,” the world No. 9 and soon-to-be world No. 1 assessed. “I played great. So (it) was a great quality of tennis tonight. (It) is amazing to be through to a final of Grand Slam again here in Australia at the [start] of the year. Means a lot to me; very happy to be part of this match. I think both of us deserve to be in that final. Finally (it) was me.”

“I’m sure I’m going to look back at that match and see what I could have done better,” Dimitrov said. “But at least one thing I can say is that I left it all out on the court. I’m proud of that.”


5 Comments on No. 3 Match of the Year: Nadal vs. Dimitrov, Australian Open

  1. Yep, match of the year, quality-wise, over 5 sets. Fed-Kyrgios Miami even a bit higher quality but over 3 sets.

  2. This is the match of the year followed by Fed kyrgios. No way Fed Rafa ao final can get higher billing than this.

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