Grigor Dimitrov takes on qualifier Denis Istomin in the second round of the ongoing ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament - Rotterdam Open - in the Netherlands on Thursday.
The world number 12, who is in red-hot form, was tested early in the first round by Germany's Mischa Zverev, who dumped world number one Andy Murray out of Australian Open earlier this year. Dimitrov, despite losing the first set that was stretched to the tie-breaker, won the match 6-7, 6-2, 6-4 after claiming two break points in the second set.
Dimitrov thus raced to the 15th win of this season. The Bulgarian has already won two titles - Brisbane Open and Sofia Open - and has lost only one match - the tightly-contested Australian Open semi-final against Rafael Nadal. His victims in the ongoing season include Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Dominic Thiem, David Goffin and Istomin is likely to feature in the list for the second time later today.
Notably, the two men have met thrice earlier and Dimitrov holds a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over his opponent, which includes his Australian Open win. Istomin's last win against his higher-ranked opponent came at Besancon Challenger in 2009.
However, Istomin will take confidence from his breakthrough stint in Melbourne last month. The world number 76, who has recovered from series of injuries in the past, showed signs of vast improvement when he stunned world number two Novak Djokovic in the second round. The Uzbek player did not panic and was unruffled in the five-setter against the Serb.
He is heading into the game after avenging his qualifier loss to Aljaz Bedene by defeating the Slovenian in the first-round clash on Wednesday. Istomin though has an uphill task against the in-form Dimitrov, who is reportedly is focussed on clinching another title after surviving a tough first-round battle.
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