It was getting dark and chilly in southwest London by the time Sam Querrey defeated Ivan Dodig of Croatia 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in the Aegon Championships on Friday.
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But the tall, 24-year-old American didn’t care about that. He was just mightily relieved to have come through a tough match to reach his first semifinal of the year on the ATP tour.
“It’s been a while — over a year since I was in the semis,” he said. “It feels great. Each match you play on grass feels better, you get more comfortable with the footing. But we both served well — over 70 percent. So it was difficult to break him, but I came up with a good game in the third set.”
A lob, a good return and a fine volley were the string of shots Querrey produced to finally break Dodig, a compact, fast-moving athlete whom Querrey had beaten in four sets at Wimbledon two years ago.
Now Querry faces a potentially more difficult challenge in Marin Cilic, who, like Querrey, stands 6-foot-6 and serves just as hard as the American.
“He’s got a great backhand, too, and he beat me 6-4 in the fifth at Wimbledon last year, so I’m going to have to play well again,” Querrey said.
Grigor Dimitrov, one of only two players in the draw who’s 21 or older, caused yet another upset when he ousted No. 9 seed Kevin Anderson 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. The tall South African had started to look like a possible winner as top seeds such as Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fell by the wayside, but Dimitrov began applying the talent that has been so obvious for so long and took charge of the third set after a rain break.
Staving off break-back points at 5-3, the young Bulgarian kept his head, coming up with well-placed first serves when he needed them most and went through to the first ATP semifinal of his career.
It obviously meant much to him, as he wept on court and walked over to give his father an emotional hug. “I’ve always wanted to share this with people I love,” Dimitrov said. “I was glad my father was there because I think it was a big moment for him. I thank him, basically. I think it was an awesome experience for us.”
Dimitrov’s chances of reaching the final might have been improved by the fact that David Nalbandian defeated Belgium’s Xavier Malisse 4-6, 7-6, 6-4. The downside for Dimitrov is obvious: Nalbandian is a hugely talented and experienced player who has played in a Wimbledon final. However, the Argentine was playing his second match of the day because of rain delays and, earlier, had beaten Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin, also in three sets.
Six sets in one day is a big workload, even on grass, for a player of 30 who has often suffered injury problems, and it remains to be seen what state he is in by the time he meets Dimitrov in the semifinal.