Dimitrov completes career set of Slam quarter-finals

Bulgarian 10th seed takes down good friend Hurkacz for maiden last-eight showing in Paris

Grigor Dimitrov, troisième tour, Roland-Garros 2024©Cédric Lecocq / FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

Grigor Dimitrov can add a maiden Roland-Garros quarter-final to his resume, continuing his resurgence as a Grand Slam contender after a resounding victory over eighth seed Hubert Hurkacz.

In 13 previous trips to the French capital, the Bulgarian had only twice ventured as far as the last 16, but on Sunday night, saw off his good friend 7-6(5), 6-4, 7-6(3).

Story of the match

While friends off court, the two have waged some drawn-out battles on it, including in the fourth round in Miami this year, which Dimitrov won in a third-set tie-break en route to the final.

Breaks, as expected, were hard to come by when two of the tour’s best servers took to the court, and neither player could be separated through the opening 11 games.

Dimitrov was almost first to blink when a wild forehand sprayed wide handed his opponent three set points, but Hurkacz was left to rue what might have been with an overhead attempt on the third opportunity.

The Pole let the high ball drop and ending up tying himself in knots trying to reposition his 196cm frame before pushing a rushed backhand long.

The Bulgarian, who broke a seven-year title drought in Brisbane to start the season, has played with renewed vigour in the past 12 months following a decision within his team to focus more on his strengths – namely his heavier attacking forehand and serve.

It is a game plan that has worked well for the 33-year-old in 2024 and has lifted him back inside the top 10.

On Sunday, he deployed it with great effect as he did his utmost to keep his taller opponent off-balance on the clay.

Having conceded the first set in a tie-break, a string of sloppy errors from Hurkacz proved costly at 3-all in the second as he meekly surrendered serve and fired a look of despair towards coach Craig Boynton.

Such was the camaraderie between the pair they each apologised for a winner they deemed too flashy or not entirely intended, but Dimitrov had nothing to be sorry for when he rifled a backhand winner on the run to bring up a set point.

Two sets to the good and a break in hand for 3-1 in the third had the Bulgarian well within sight of victory before a stumble.

Back on serve and skin off the knuckles from a diving volley quickly seen to, he closed it out at the two-hour, 51-minute mark, a welcome result following his four-set triumph over Belgian Zizou Bergs the night before.

Second seed Jannik Sinner or the last Frenchman standing, Corentin Moutet, is next.

Grigor Dimitrov, third round, Roland-Garros 2024©Cedric Lecocq / FFT

Key stats

Dimitrov’s seventh Grand Slam quarter-final makes him the 13th active men’s player to reach the quarter-finals at all four majors.

He improved to a flawless 6-0 against Hurkacz and to 7-0 in tie-breaks between the pair. Four of their six meetings have  gone to a deciding set with three of those a deciding-set tie-break. Their only other meeting prior to Sunday was decided in two tie-breaks.

Dimitrov withstood 20 aces from the Pole and 41 forehand winners but still managed 29 off his own forehand. He was far more consistent, however, committing just 28 unforced errors to Hurkacz’s 43.

Dimitrov's take on things

On beating a friend to reach his first Roland-Garros quarter-final: “I had a fairly short night [sleep] to be honest and I just came out and hit a few balls before the match. I didn't want to spend a lot of energy so I just tried to prepare more mentally than anything else.

"It's very hard to play against such a good friend. Hubi, I've known him for quite a few years. We practise a lot, we've shared quite a few moments together and I knew this was going to be a difficult match, but I knew also that I had to fight a lot… I always wanted to get to that second week.

"Roland-Garros was the only Slam that I felt like I could never get that extra step, but today, 15 years later, I made it so I'm very happy with that.”

On the intricacies of clay-court tennis: “I think especially when you play on the clay court here you need a lot of finesse, I mean reading the court a little bit. I think clay court is always tricky. You never know what conditions you're going to get, but I like my chances. I like when I can use my body a lot, when I can chase balls all around the court, I'm able to use my slice, my variety.

“At the same time, when the ball is there to be hit I try to make the most out of it and also against Hubi, we both like to do quite a bit of finesse. He has extremely good touch and amazing reach throughout the court so I truly enjoyed that match.”

 Hubert Hurkacz, troisième tour, Roland-Garros 2024©André Ferreira / FFT