07:51 PM GMT November 17, 2017
Grigor Dimitrov is finishing the ATP World Tour season just like he started it: in top form and full of confidence.
The sixth seed strolled into the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals on Friday night, beating alternate Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 6-1, 6-1 to finish Group Pete Sampras play a perfect 3-0. Dimitrov joins Group Boris Becker winner Roger Federer as the only unbeaten singles players, and the Bulgarian has looked impressive doing so.
In his opening match, he needed three sets to advance past fourth seed Dominic Thiem, but against Carreno Busta and fellow semi-finalist David Goffin, Dimitrov lost only four games in four sets.
“I wanted to keep on going with the style that I've been doing so far... I followed my game well and didn't make mistakes. I think the simplicity helped me to play such a good game, to go through those matches in such a manner,” Dimitrov said.
In Saturday's semi-final, the 26-year-old will meet American Jack Sock, the second-place finisher in Group Boris Becker. Dimitrov trails Sock in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 1-3, including a three-set loss earlier this year at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. But Dimitrov had four match points in that encounter.
“He is not an ordinary player. He really uses his strengths very good. I think he obviously has improved a lot in his game, played pretty much throughout the whole year, very strong finish of the year, won the [Rolex Paris Masters]. Obviously he's riding on confidence right now,” Dimitrov said.
Dimitrov began 2017 by beating three Top 10 players – Thiem, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori – to win the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp. Two and a half weeks later, he reached the Australian Open semi-finals before falling to Rafael Nadal. On 6 February, Dimitrov was third in the Emirates ATP Race To London.
Forget the Race standings for a moment, though. If Dimitrov wins on Saturday, he will finish the year in the Top 3 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, which would be a career-best year-end finish. On Monday, when the new rankings are released, Dimitrov, regardless of what happens on Saturday, will climb to No. 4 with 4,250 rankings points.
But if he beats Sock, Dimitrov will pick up 400 more points to give him 4,650, good enough to climb past current No. 3 Alexander Zverev, who has 4,610 rankings points.
And Dimitrov might finish with even more rankings points if he plays like he did on Friday night. The right-hander won 95 per cent of his first-serve points (19/20), didn't face a break point and broke Carreno Busta five times. They had been even in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series (2-2), but both of Carreno Busta's wins had come on clay, and Dimitrov was too much on the quick hard court at The O2.
“It's not the best result that you dream for to finish the season. But Grigor is playing really good. He's with a lot of confidence... He was loose. He did his best. In this surface, I think that he plays better than me,” Carreno Busta said.
The 26-year-old Spaniard ends his best season on a disappointing note. Carreno Busta has gone 1-7 since reaching the US Open semi-finals, his first Grand Slam semi-final.
“I am very, very happy because I finished No. 10. And the goal for this year was to be in the Top 20, so I think I completed my goals. I think that I improved a lot this year, playing more aggressive than last year, playing better, believing more in myself,” Carreno Busta said. “I think I'm a better player than last year. Now I'm thinking about the next season, to try to improve more and try to be better.”