Former world No.3 Grigor Dimitrov has continued his stunning fall from grace after losing to a 28-year-old hometown hero who had never previously won a main-draw match on the ATP tour.
Dimitrov coughed up four straight games to lose the first set and five straight during the second as American qualifier Kevin King pulled off a miraculous 7-5 6-4 victory at the Atlanta Open.
The match was just the fifth appearance in a main draw for King, ranked 405th in the world, since his first at the 2013 edition of the ATP 250 event.
“I'm feeling great right now. Great atmosphere out here, I just want to thank all the fans for coming out and pulling me through there at the end,” he said.
Un. Believable.— US Open Tennis (@usopen) July 24, 2019
In one of the upsets of the year in tennis, No. 405 Kevin King earns his first career @ATP_Tour win over Grigor Dimitrov in his hometown tournament.#USOpenSeries | @BBTatlantaopen pic.twitter.com/csQYujFixN
While the victory was the American’s moment to savour, the defeat for Dimitrov has sparked fresh fears for his career.
The Bulgarian, who won two junior grand slams to stamp himself as a player to watch, finished 2018 inside the ATP top 10 following a mini-resurgence early in the year but injuries and a lack of confidence have struck again since.
He showed signs of fight at Roland Garros, defeating fellow slumping star Marin Cilic in five sets and forcing Stan Wawrinka to win three tiebreaks.
But a return to title contention appears a long way off after three consecutive defeats in first-round matches.
Oof. Dimitrov is looking more and more lost on court at the moment. https://t.co/8IMyozS52c— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) July 24, 2019
Dimitrov was up a break in both sets before losing in Atlanta R1 to #405 Kevin King, a qualifier. King, who won his first career ATP MD match at 28yo, created 23 break points on Grigor's serve.— José Morgado (@josemorgado) July 24, 2019
Oh my God. Grigor Dimitrov, a former world No. 3 who won the ATP Finals in 2017, loses to No. 405 Kevin King in the first round in Atlanta after being up two breaks in the second set. A true career low for Dimitrov. King wins his first ATP-level match.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) July 24, 2019
Dimitrov, who entered the tournament ranked 53rd in the world, is likely to slip further down the list in the coming weeks.
He is scheduled to play in Los Cabos next week but is set to drop 270 ranking points over the next fortnight.
Meanwhile, King will face compatriot and second seed Taylor Fritz in the second round for a place in the Atlanta quarter-finals.
‘That’s how I play’
Bernard Tomic set up a showdown with fellow Australian Matthew Ebden at the tournament after a comeback win over Frances Tiafoe.
Tomic, ranked 106th in the world, defeated American fifth seed Tiafoe 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in one hour and 48 minutes.
The 26-year-old Tomic fired 20 aces against Tiafoe to progress to the last 16.
Not “showing effort” much more than he did when Wimbledon docked all of his pay, Bernard Tomic beats #5 seed Frances Tiafoe in a third set tiebreak in Atlanta R1.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 23, 2019
That’s just how he tennises.
I just watched Gin & Tomic beat lighten up Frances 1st rd of ATL in 3rd set breaker, I have no idea 💡 how it happened— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) July 23, 2019
Tomic told reporters he did not make make any drastic changes to his game against the world No.41 in their first-ever encounter.
"That's how I play; I always try to do something different," he said.
Tomic's next opponent will be Ebden, who defeated Polish qualifier Kamil Majchrzak 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 in his opening round.
Australian third seed Alex de Minaur received a first-up bye and will play Bradley Klahn in the round of 16 on Wednesday, while 19-year-old Alexei Popyrin will face French fourth seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert for a place in the quarter-finals.