Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

On Day of Close Calls, Dimitrov Fends off McDonald in Fifth

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

On Day of Close Calls, Dimitrov Fends off McDonald in Fifth

Article excerpt

By John Pye

Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia | It was quite a predicament for Grigor Dimitrov, still basking in his triumph at the ATP Finals as he entered his seconduround match at the Australian Open against a young American who had never won a tourulevel match before qualifying for the first major of the season.

Mackenzie McDonald is ranked 186th and played college tennis at UCLA. He had never played anyone ranked better than No. 69 before facing the thirduseeded Dimitrov on Wednesday.

McDonald broke Dimitrov's serve three times in the fourth set and pushed the fifth beyond 12 games - there's no tiebreakers in fifth sets at the Australian Open - before his first doubleufault of the set suddenly gave Dimitrov a match point.

Dimitrov finished it off 4u6, 6u2, 6u4, 0u6, 8u6 as midnight approached.

"Really the game wasn't there today. I wasn't feeling well on the court - fourth set was a disgrace," said Dimitrov, who took Rafael Nadal to five sets in a marathon semifinal in Melbourne last year. "But I won with what I had. That was my fighting spirit.

"He played an unbelievable game (but) experience in the end really helped me."

That seemed to be a theme of Day 3.

Seconduseeded Caroline Wozniacki had to save two match points and come back from 5u1 down in the third set to beat 119thuranked Jana Fett 3u6, 6u2, 7u5. JouWilfried Tsonga, the 2008 Australian Open finalist, rallied from 5u2 down in the fifth to overcome Denis Shapovalov 3u6, 6u3, 1u6, 7u6 (4), 7u5.

And 38uyearuold Ivo Karlovic overcame Yuichi Sugita 7u6 (3), 6u7 (3), 7u5, 4u6, 12u10.

Nadal, the 2017 runneruup, didn't risk any close calls. The topuranked Spaniard made only 10 unforced errors and had just one hiccup - dropping a service game while serving for the match - in a 6u3, 6u4, 7u6 (4) win over Leonardo Mayer.

"It's an important victory for me," said Nadal, who won the French Open and U.S. Open last year but had his preparation for Australia interrupted by an injured right knee. "After a while without being on the competition ... second victory in a row, that's very important."

In the match preceding Nadal and Mayer on Rod Laver Arena, Wozniacki felt like she was "one foot out the tournament" before winning six straight games to advance.

"That was crazy," Wozniacki said. "I don't know how I got back into the match. I was like, 'This is my last chance.'

"At 5u1, 40u15 ... she served a great serve down the T (and) it was just slightly out. I was kind of lucky."

Wozniacki won the next nine points, and 24 of the 31 points played from the first match point.

She'll next play No. 30 Kiki Bertens.

After his enthralling comeback victory over Shapovalov, highlighted by a betweenutheulegs shot on an important point, Tsonga will meet 17thuseeded Nick Kyrgios in what shapes up to be an entertaining thirduround encounter. …

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