Dimitrov defeats Wawrinka on Thursday
Can Rafael Nadal be stopped in Acapulco? The top-seeded Spaniard produced his best performance of the week at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC, cruising past rising South Korean Soonwoo Kwon 6-2, 6-1 in their quarter-final clash on Thursday.
Nadal has dropped just 15 games across his first three rounds this week, improving with each match as his powerful baseline game rounded into top form. The 33-year-old moved closer to his third title in Acapulco (2005, 2013) and improved to 18-2 at this event.
”The match has been much tougher than what the result said. I think it was a beautiful match to see,” Nadal said. “It was a good match against a tough opponent. I think he’s going to have a very good tennis career.”
Kwon reached four consecutive quarter-finals this month, including his first at an ATP 500 event in Acapulco. The South Korean refused to be intimidated by facing Nadal, leaning into powerful backhands and hanging with the Spaniard in their baseline rallies. But while Kwon kept the games close, he didn’t have to much to show for it on the scoreboard.
Nadal started the match in full flight, breaking Kwon with a powerful forehand winner for a 3-1 lead. The top seed hammered 11 winners to just four unforced errors in the opening set, pushing Kwon around the court to grab the early advantage.
The South Korean had plenty of chances to jump in front during the second set. Kwon held seven game points across the first three games, all of which went to multiple deuces. But every time he held a game point, Nadal erased it with clean hitting. Kwon was left wondering what he needed to do after the Spaniard pulled himself to a 3-0 lead.
Nadal’s one-way traffic continued after he grabbed an insurance break at 4-1 and closed out play after one hour and 31 minutes. He finished the night with 25 winners to 11 unforced errors and saved all eight break points he faced.
Next up for Nadal is Grigor Dimitrov, who dismissed third seed Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 6-4 earlier in the evening. The 2014 champion (d. Anderson) snapped a five-match losing streak against the Swiss, closing the gap (5-7) in their ATP Head2Head and improving to 11-2 at this event.
”[Dimitrov] finished last year much better than how he had played the rest of that year. He started to play some good tennis and is showing it here, winning some very good matches,” Nadal said. “I’m going to need my best and I hope I’m ready to make it happen.”
Dimitrov has continued to overcome mental hurdles this week, saving two match points and snapping a four-match losing streak in final-set tie-breaks to defeat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino on Wednesday. The 28-year-old moved to 7-4 this season and is through to his first semi-final of the year.
”I’ve played quite a few times against Stan and we’ve practised together so many times. Between us, it’s mainly a mental battle,” Dimitrov said. “I had lost the past five times against him, but those losses have inspired me. Those losses helped me. Even though it hurts saying it, I’m admitting it. I wanted to stand tall tonight.”
The Bulgarian will need to erase another losing streak if he wants to reach another final in Acapulco. Nadal leads their ATP Head2Head series 12-1, but Dimitrov picked up his lone win on hard courts at 2016 Beijing.
”The past months have been pretty rough for me. All I wanted to do was put myself in the situation to play the best of the best,” Dimitrov said. “I’m far away from being satisfied. I’m still going to focus on the things I’ve been trying to work on.”
Wawrinka started slowly and dropped the first eight points of the match against Dimitrov. But even when the Swiss broke back to tie the score at 3-3, his groundstrokes didn’t meet his lofty standards. A pair of wild forehand errors from Wawrinka in the next game saw him drop serve once more and another forehand miss on set point gave Dimitrov the opening set.
The Bulgarian continued to remain steady in the second set, extending the rallies until his opponent’s baseline game broke down. Serving at 2-2, Wawrinka was broken to love for the second time in the match after sending a forehand well long.
The slight advantage was all Dimitrov needed and he closed out play after one hour and 25 minutes. Dimitrov hit just 12 unforced errors on the night, compared to 34 for Wawrinka.