The struggling Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov will stay on just nine ATP wins before Rome, hitting the exit door in the opening round in Madrid after a 7-6, 7-6 loss to a qualifier Taylor Fritz in an hour and 47 minutes. The young American won five points more than a former quarter-finalist, firing 15 aces and suffering two breaks.
Grigor wasn't far from the finish line either, getting broken twice from four chances given to Taylor, wasting a 4-2 lead in the opening set and a set point in the tie break. Fritz finished the match with 30 winners and only 11 unforced errors, edging Grigor in the longest points and delivering better tennis when it mattered the most to move over the top first.
The Bulgarian drew first blood in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead, squandering the advantage in the very next game after a poor drop shot. Grigor was two points away from the set in the tie break, wasting a set point at 7-6 after a service winner from Taylor who closed the opener with a forehand winner at 9-8 after 56 minutes.
The youngster raced 3-0 in front in set number two before Grigor bounced back with a break in game seven after a double fault from Fritz, sending the set into another breaker that the American grabbed 7-4 after four mini-breaks, sealing the deal in the 11th point when Dimitrov sprayed a backhand error for the 12th Masters 1000 win.
The other American youngster Reilly Opelka took down Pablo Carreno Busta 7-6, 6-4 in an hour and 25 minutes for the fourth victory at Masters 1000 level, blasting 14 aces and dropping 14 points in 11 service games to keep service games safe.
The Spaniard lost serve only once and that was enough to send him out, dropping the opening set tie break 7-5 and falling 3-2 down in the second set after a forehand error. That was all Reilly needed to bring the match home, firing four winners in game ten to earn the place in the second round.
The 9th seed Marin Cilic barely escaped an early exit, saving four match points against a qualifier Martin Klizan in a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 triumph in two hours and 48 minutes for only the fifth win in 2019. Klizan scored three straight breaks in set number two, building the momentum ahead of the decider where he had those four match points at 6-5.
Cilic managed to save them all and he was never in doubt after that, claiming the tie break 7-0 to grab the much-needed win after a terrible four months he has had so far this year. Rio de Janeiro champion Laslo Djere ousted the fellow Serb and Monte Carlo runner-up Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 25 minutes, losing serve only once and creating 12 opportunities on the return, converting three to clinch the second Masters 1000 win.
The third NextGen American star is through to the second round, with Frances Tiafoe battling past the 14th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours. Frances played better and better as the match progressed and this was his 11th win in 20 encounters in 2019, struggling to find the form from the Australian Open and Indian Wells.