PARIS (Reuters) - Grigor Dimitrov’s claycourt gremlins struck again as his French Open hopes bit the dust in predictable fashion in the third round against Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco on Friday.
The 27-year-old Bulgarian has still never reached the fourth round in Paris and he admitted after bowing out 7-6(4) 6-2 6-4 that he will have to go back to the drawing board.
The fourth seed failed to convert any of the four set points that arrived when 34-year-old Verdasco served at 5-6 in a tight first set and after that he faded badly.
Verdasco is far more reliable on the dirt although he will have to find a way to end his fourth-round hoodoo at Roland Garros having fallen at that stage six times.
Dimitrov said he had lost his “nerve” after dropping the opener and said he would take a little time off to reflect on a European claycourt season that began with a semi-final run in Monte Carlo but ended with a whimper.
“Unfortunately I have to continually stop here, I mean, the same time,” Dimitrov told reporters.
“I just could never turn it around out here. And this year is the same thing. I definitely need to take some time off now to kind of reassess the whole claycourt season, to be honest.
“I think that’s going to be the number one priority for me now to kind of step out from the tennis for a little bit, try to watch some matches and try to progress and get better.”
Dimitrov said Verdasco had played a “stunning match” but it could have been different if the first set had gone his way.
However, Verdasco held his nerve under intense pressure, saving all four set points at 5-6, one of them with a second-serve ace that flew down the middle.
After that, the feisty Spaniard took charge and got well on top, breaking Dimitrov twice to take the second set.
Verdasco wavered for the only time in the match when he blazed a forehand long to allow Dimitrov to break back in the third set having established a 4-2 lead.
But there was to be no fightback and a forehand a whisker long when serving at 4-5 handed Verdasco victory.
Dimitrov will now head towards the grasscourts hoping to rediscover the spark that took him to semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2014 and at the Australian Open in 2017, as well as claiming the ATP Tour Finals title in November.
“You have to draw the line and look for the next chapter. In tennis you never know, one week can always turn things around for you. It’s been proven in the past,” he said.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge