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US Open first round preview: Stan Wawrinka vs Grigor Dimitrov

2016 champion, Stan Wawrinka and eight seed Grigor Dimitrov will square off in what is unarguably the biggest match up of the first round in the men’s bracket.

It is the second straight Grand Slam event where both men will face off in the opening round, with three-time Grand Slam winner, Wawrinka claiming victory in Wimbledon last month. Dimitrov, though, leads the head-to-head 4-3, having gotten the better of the burly Swiss in four of five previous encounters.

After enjoying stellar years, ones that saw him excel on the biggest stages and reach a career-high of No.3 in the world, Stan Wawrinka suffered a knee injury in August last year that kept him on the sidelines for almost six months. The after-effects were distressing.

He returned in January this year but endured another spell of injury and a terrible lack of form that saw him drop from 30th in the world to 263. His poor form lasted right till the end of the grass court season. The last few weeks, however, have been quite different, with the Swiss now finding his footing. He reached the Last 16 of the Rogers Cup before narrowly losing to eventual champion, Rafael Nadal, and then put up an impressive display at the Cincinnati Open where he reached the quarterfinals, losing to Roger Federer in three straights.

Can Wawrinka now build on his recent momentum and kick start a resurgence?

Seeded eight, Grigor Dimitrov has also endured a poor season. Since winning the ATP World Tour Finals in London in December last year, the Bulgarian has struggled to live up to expectations, with good results few and far between. He hasn’t won more than two matches in a single tournament since Monte Carlo in April. However, there were some improvements in his last two tournaments — the Rogers Cup where he edged Fernando Verdasco and Francis Tiafoe before getting drubbed by Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinal — and at the Cincinnati Masters where he beat Mischa Zverev in straight sets and then impressively took a set off Novak Djokovic in the Last 16 before going down to the Serb in three.

Can he, at least, gain some confidence from that going into the US Open?

Wawrinka and Dimitrov are aggressive players with effective one-handed backhands. Although, Wawrinka is the more powerful of the two, while Dimitrov is notable for caving in when the going gets tough. Wawrinka will fancy his chances of going through here and will take confidence from his new found form, albeit shaky. But Dimitrov knows how to beat Wawrinka; his four victories against the Swiss were consecutive. It wouldn’t be wise to rule him out.

With both men in desperate need of some redemption, this promises to a gripping affair.

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