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Dimitrov rallies against Murray to launch new season in style

1 January 2024, by Vivienne Christie

Amid the many memorable chapters in Grigor Dimitrov’s career, there’s a prominent place for Brisbane.

In 2017, Bulgaria’s most successful male player in history defeated Andy Murray to lift a seventh ATP trophy at Pat Rafter Arena. Adding another at the prestigious season-ending ATP Finals later that year, Dimitrov peaked at world No.3 in his best season as a professional.

The 32-year-old added more to his Brisbane success story as he launched his 2024 campaign against a familiar opponent in Andy Murray.

The former world No.1 is the only two-time men’s singles champion at the Brisbane International, claiming back-to-back victories in the 2012 and 2013 editions.

Dimitrov was the runner-up in Murray’s latter victory – adding an intriguing element of nostalgia to their first-round match on Monday.

There’s also intriguing history between the popular competitors, with Murray among five ATP rivals that Dimitrov has faced at least 10 times.

So when the 36-year-old Scot claimed a first-set lead in their latest contest in Brisbane, Dimitrov could draw on his vast experience to emerge with a hard-fought three-set win.

It took until the ninth game of the second set for the second-seeded Dimitrov to earn his first break point opportunity and while he duly converted, Murray rallied with another service break before the match progressed to a third set.

Dimitrov grew in confidence, securing his 4-6 7-5 6-2 victory with his 13th ace of the night.

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It continued a stunning period of progress for the popular Bulgarian, who soared back to world No.14 after a 2023 resurgence that included a victory over world No.2 Carlos Alcaraz to reach the Shanghai Masters semifinals, and progress to the Paris Masters final at the end of the year.

“I think the best thing was that I was able to stay healthy,” a smiling Dimitrov noted.

“As long as I was able to be healthy and keep on having a good consistency throughout all the weeks, then especially the last bit of last year … I was very proud that I really felt like I had a gutsy effort and I just wanted to carry that on.”

The flipside to that progress is a sense of expectation. “When you play so well, especially at the end of the year, you kind of put a bit more pressure on yourself to start well,” Dimitrov acknowledged.

“As soon as I came out here today I still felt a little rusty to be honest, but I had to keep on fighting, I had to keep on finding my shots and going after my game. I had to keep on believing in the work that I’ve put in.”

There was a pleasing measure of that progress in a first match of the season, Dimitrov finishing with 46 winners against 16 from Murray and his overall efficiency growing throughout the match.

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It adds to a broader sense of optimism as Dimitrov begins a 14th season in Australia.

“I just really want to enjoy every single time that I get out here and I don’t take it for granted,” added the 32-year-old who’ll face either Germany’s Daniel Altmaier or Australian Li Tu in the second round at Brisbane.

Delighted to return to a favourite city, the No.2 seed is highly motivated to maintain his winning momentum.

“It’s so nice to see you guys back here, I’ve really missed this tournament,” he told a delighted Pat Rafter Arena audience. “And here we go, kicking off the new year in style.”

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