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Dimitrov halts the passage of Thiem, to meet Karatsev in QF

Grigor Dimitrov engineered the first huge upset at Australian Open 2021 by knocking off last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem in straight sets at his most successful Grand Slam. 

MORE: All the scores from Day 7 at AO 2021

Thiem became the first top-three seed in either singles draw to exit after the Bulgarian prevailed 6-4 6-4 6-0 to end Sunday’s day session at Rod Laver Arena. 

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Dominic Thiem vs Grigor Dimitrov Match Highlights (4R) | Australian Open 2021

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Dimitrov made a fourth quarterfinal at Melbourne Park and collected a 28th Australian Open victory. On paper, he will be expected to keep it going since Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev – who rallied past Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6 1-6 6-3 6-3 6-4 earlier on Sunday – meets him in the last eight. 

MORE: 'I'm not a robot': Thiem laments flat showing

"I always like to say the beginning of the year it’s always important to come out of the blocks," said Dimitrov. 

"I think it’s a great way to see where you are at physically – and mentally – and it’s also important to shift the gear every match that you play so right now I’m just focusing on what my plan was these whole weeks."

The 18th seed’s complete game is firing, and getting some luck – third-round opponent Pablo Carreno Busta retired after seven games – never hurts. 

Dimitrov picked up his third straight win over Thiem, who hasn’t defeated his older rival on a hard court since their first tussle in Acapulco in 2016. 

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Dimitrov extended his stellar record in Melbourne

A sharp Dimitrov countered a laboured Thiem one round after the Austrian came from two sets down to beat Nick Kyrgios at John Cain Arena on Friday. 

Thiem committed 41 unforced errors paired with only 25 winners. The number 25 featured for Dimitrov, too – 25 winners, but a mere 18 unforced errors. 

"I was entirely trying to focus on what I was doing, the game plan that I had," said Dimitrov.

"I think he might have actually struggled with something, which I don’t know, but I also want to give myself credit for staying focused and composed throughout the three sets. He’s an unbelievable player."

The fit Thiem has played much longer than Friday’s three hour, 21-minute thriller — winning two of his three Grand Slam matches last season that eclipsed the four-hour mark — but the victory over Kyrgios was draining stuff. He acknowledged “physical issues” surfaced without elaborating. 

“I don't want to find any excuses,” said the reigning US Open champion. “But the thing also is that I'm also not a machine. I mean, sometimes I would like to be, but there are really, really bad days. As soon as you're not 100 percent there on the court on this level, then results like this come up, and that's exactly what happened today.”

Switching from night to day and without fans due to Melbourne’s newly-imposed lockdown, Thiem let slip 3-1 leads in the first two sets. 

Thiem struggled to back up after his draining win over Kyrgios

He squandered advantages during service games, too. 

Case in point? 

Thiem held six game points at 3-1 in the first set before Dimitrov earned a first break chance. 

What happened next? Dimitrov broke a string. 

After another game point vanished, the 29-year-old broke for 2-3 and hung on for 3-3. 

Thiem then surrendered a 40-15 lead to trail 4-3. 

The pattern never stopped. 

Thiem had to fend off five break points in his first two service games of the second set — all after holding game points — and got his full reward by breaking for 3-1. Was a turnaround on the way? 

No, as Thiem saw a 40-30 lead slip and Dimitrov got back on serve with new coach Dante Bottini, in Kei Nishikori’s corner for a decade, watching from the stands. 

Thiem’s play didn’t suggest another massive comeback and he duly dropped serve to start a third set that lasted just 21 minutes. 

Karatsev went into the record books after his comeback, becoming the first men's player making his Grand Slam debut to reach the quarterfinals since Alex Radulescu at 1996 Wimbledon, and the first men's qualifier to reach the quarterfinals at any Grand Slam since Bernard Tomic at 2011 Wimbledon.

He is giving his higher profile compatriots Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev company. 

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Felix Auger-Aliassime vs Aslan Karatsev Match Highlights (4R) | Australian Open 2021

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The 27-year-old never played in a Grand Slam main draw prior to the current fortnight or even played a fifth set — like Auger-Aliassime. 

Free-flowing with winners through three rounds and not dropping a set, Karatsev cooled in the first two sets at Margaret Court Arena against the 20th seed. 

Karatsev's remarkable first major reached new heights on Sunday

But he registered 30 winners in the final three sets, holding his nerve even as he missed a golden opportunity to grab a double break 5-2 lead in the fifth. 

A bold forehand into the corner began the last game and settle any nerves. 

He cruised to victory in the final game, just as Dimitrov did in his final set.

“It was a big win from 2-0 (sets) down and emotionally it was tough,” said Karatsev, who has never played Dimitrov. “Yeah, it's a good feeling.”

Thiem hopes that his pal Dimitrov — tipped for Grand Slam titles when coming up through the ranks — makes the ultimate breakthrough. 

“I really wish that he can make a great breakthrough at a Grand Slam,” said Them. “He would definitely deserve it.”