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Dimitrov wins to emerge as Federer's main threat

 

By Tom Allnutt

Grigor Dimitrov thrashed David Goffin to sail into the ATP Finals knock-out stages and ensure he steers clear of Roger Federer in the last four.

Goffin had beaten an injury-affected Rafael Nadal in his opener on Monday but the Belgian was handed a lesson at London's O2 Arena by an inspired Dimitrov.

The match threatened to turn embarrassing when Dimitrov led 6-0 3-0 and while Goffin did finally get on the board, he could not stop the Bulgarian sealing a 6-0 6-2 victory.

The result means Dimitrov not only seals qualification from his group but will go through top, meaning he avoids Federer in Saturday's semi-final. Federer is also guaranteed to go through his own pool in first place.

In last night's late action, Austria's Dominic Thiem beat Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3 3-6 6-4.

Goffin, wearing strapping around his knee, may not have been fully fit and he must now beat Thiem tomorrow to keep his own hopes of progress alive.

An improved performance against Thiem would also seem important for confidence given Goffin will spearhead his country's charge in the Davis Cup final against France next week.

Dimitrov, however, long touted as a potential challenger to the game's established elite, showed here what all the fuss is about and, on this form, could yet challenge Federer for the title this weekend.

"You get a few days in the year that whatever you touch turns into gold," he said on court after the match.

"That was the first set today for sure. You have days like that, I work for those days. It's nice when they come on such an occasion like this."

The 26-year-old, playing at an end-of-season tournament for the first time, made just three unforced errors in the opening set, his baseline dominance all the more impressive given his first serve was only firing at a lowly 36 per cent.

An early break with a punching volley set the Bulgarian on his way and Goffin was simply unable to respond, the first set wrapped up in just 27 minutes.

Goffin finally registered, to great cheers from the crowd, at 3-0 in the second but his resistance was fleeting as another dipping Dimitrov forehand confirmed an emphatic win.

Meanwhile, Britain's Jamie Murray and Brazilian Bruno Soares pulled progress at the ATP Finals back into their own hands after they cruised to victory over Marcel Granollers and Ivan Dodig.

After losing to Bob and Mike Bryan on Monday, Murray and Soares knew defeat here would end their hopes of reaching the semi-finals, but they delivered an emphatic response by winning 6-1 6-1.

Murray and Soares can now guarantee their place in the last four by beating Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubot tomorrow, while Dodig and Granollers are eliminated regardless.

Defeat to Melo and Kubot would leave Murray and Soares relying on Dodig and Granollers to overcome the Bryan brothers.

Melo and Kubot have won both of their opening two group matches and are yet to drop a set, but Murray and Soares will take great confidence from this ruthless performance.

The only discomfort stemmed from Murray's back, for which he took some massage from the trainer. Murray said that the pain in his back had come on during the second set.

"It was like a spasm or joint or something," Murray said.

"It's sore now. I'll go and see the physio afterwards so hopefully they sort it out."

Victory over Kubot and Melo will also see Murray and Soares through as group winners, unless they drop a set and the Bryans beat Dodig and Granollers.

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