The man once dubbed ‘Baby Fed’ scored the biggest win of his career on Tuesday night, and it came against the real Fed, as Grigor Dimitrov knocked off third-seed Roger Federer 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the US Open semifinals, the second major semifinal of his career.
“Only thing I kept thinking was to stay in the match, in the match,” said Dimitrov. “I’m just happy.”
For the first time in his eight matches against Federer, Dimitrov showed the mental strength and fortitude to hang with the 20-time Grand Slam champion. Entering the match on Tuesday, Dimitrov had only won one set in their previous meetings and lost the seven sets altogether, and when Federer broke him early in the first set it looked as if it would lean that direction once again.
But Dimitrov, who is enjoying the best US Open run of his career, dug in to begin the second set and secured the break he needed for 4-2. Although he double-faulted on set point while serving for the set, he did not wither away, instead breaking Federer in the ensuing game to level the match at one-set all.
After Federer responded with multiple breaks of serve in the third set to reclaim the lead, Dimitrov would once again be forced to respond if he wanted to stay in the match. Uncharacteristically, Federer racked up the errors in the fourth set, 19 unforced errors in all and failed to convert on six break point chances he had. On the flip side, Dimitrov converted on one of his nine break chances in the set, and it proved to be the decisive one as the unseeded Bulgarian forced the match into a deciding fifth set.
Federer would leave the court and take a medical timeout prior to the start of the decider:
“Just needed to try to loosen it up, crack it and see if it was going to be better,” Federer would explain afterwards.
While Federer went off the court, Dimitrov stayed on and made sure he remained warm, staying loose and doing some push-ups, as he seemed ready to nail down a signature win.
He raced out to a 4-0 lead, breaking Federer twice on both chances he had, and playing clean tennis with only three unforced errors. A few games later, he would close things out, and book his spot in the final four in Flushing.
“I felt very comfortable from the first point, despite the fact that I was missing a little bit here and there,” said Dimitrov. “I had a few opportunities. I kept on believing in what I had to do, in my game plan. I was moving really well. I was hitting my backhand pretty good, changing up the shots.
One of the only things for me was to try to keep him, as much as possible, on the court. I did that very well. A lot of long games. Yeah, clearly in the end he was not at his best. I used every opportunity that I had.”
Dimitrov now moves into a matchup with fifth-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev, who ousted former champion and 23rd seed Stan Wawrinka earlier in the day.
The other semifinal on the men’s side will be determined on Wednesday, as second-seed Rafael Nadal takes on 20th seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, and 13th seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils squares off against Matteo Berrettini, the 24th seed from Italy.