Tennis

Dimitrov digs deep to win five-setter

Relieved world No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov survived a massive scare to beat American qualifier MacKenzie McDonald in five sets and reach the third round of the Australian Open yesterday.

The Bulgarian needed to pull out all stops to see off the 186th-ranked McDonald, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 0-6, 8-6 in a 3hr 25min match at the Rod Laver Arena.

In the process, he joined the likes of top seed Rafael Nadal, Marin Cilic and Nick Kyrgios, all of whom also advanced into the third round yesterday.

Dimitrov, who is ranked only below Nadal and Roger Federer, drew on all his experience to avoid his first defeat to a qualifier at a Grand Slam.

McDonald attacked the third seed's signature backhand, limiting him to only five winners and restricted Dimitrov to just 28 per cent of second service points with the Bulgarian committing nine double-faults.

It was a mighty relieved Dimitrov who lived to fight another day, and line up a third-round clash with 20-year-old Russian Andrey Rublev tomorrow.

"What can I say, it was a tough day," he said. "I'm most happy with that. He was playing absolutely unbelievable, he deserves a lot of credit."

Dimitrov, 26, said the pair had practised together in California, where McDonald, 22, had a successful college tennis career with UCLA.

"He has improved so much. I just had to fight and the experience in the end really helped me," Dimitrov said.

"I'm very happy with win, not because of the way I played, but because the way I fought. It all came down to a few points here and there."

Dimitrov claimed the biggest title of his career when he beat Belgium's David Goffin in the ATP Finals in London among his four titles last November.

But he has never gone past the semi-finals of a Grand Slam, reaching the last four at Wimbledon in 2014 and in Melbourne last year.

Meanwhile, Nadal voiced his support for players to demand a greater share of tennis revenues, saying that more lower-ranked professionals should be able to make a living from the sport.

His comments follow reports that Novak Djokovic, the president of the Players' Council, had urged players to unionise.

Said Nadal: "(It's) not about (players') union or not union... I believe that the tennis improved a lot the last couple of years for the lower-ranking players.

"One sport is bigger not only when the top guys win a lot of money. It's bigger when a sport creates a lot of jobs." - AFP

Tennis