Toronto - Former top 10 contender Grigor Dimitrov, trying to claw his way back in what has been a disappointing season, reached the second round of the Toronto Masters on Monday with a 5-7, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 defeat of Yuichi Sugita.
The 40th-ranked Bulgarian got out of danger after trailing a set and a break against the unheralded Japanese, who had the upper hand through more than half of the match as the hardcourt build up to the US Open began for ATP players.
Dimitrov, who lost six straight matches prior to Wimbledon, where he showed signs of life by reaching the third round, admitted that his road back is a huge challenge. He improved to 21-16 in 2016.
"It was a very tough match, I didn't play my best tennis but I got through. It was great to hear some Bulgarian voices in the crowd when I got down on myself," he said.
"The weeks before Wimbledon were difficult for me," he added. "I was still working hard, trying to perform.
"Patience is the key for me now, that's what it's all about."
Dimitrov said he finally turned the corner in the match while trailing 4-1 in the second-set tiebreaker, standing just a handful of points from a first-round exit.
The Bulgarian won a lob-to-lob exchange with the 107th-ranked Sugita, coming through to eventually level the set and take on new life in the third.
"I was desperate to win that point," Dimitrov admitted. "It feels great to win a round here."
After morning rain, sunshine highlighted the afternoon, with unseeded players taking to the courts as the top eight seeds benefitted from byes.
Borna Coric won an all-Croatian clash as he beat Ivan Dodig 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 while South African Kevin Anderson ended a losing streak of three consecutive opening matches, downing Serb Viktor Troicki 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Canadian wild card Steven Diez surprised Briton Kyle Edmund 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 while Canada's Peter Polansky rallied to beat American Tim Smyczek 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.