Every week Baseline will select a “Player of the Week.” That athlete may not always win the highest category tournament that week, but perform the best compared to their recent playing history.
It looked like Grigor Dimitrov was finally ready to live up to the massive expectations that have followed him his entire career when he narrowly lost a five-set thriller to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals of the Australian Open.
But then he failed to capitalize on four match points against Jack Sock in Indian Wells, lost three straight first-round matches, and then blew five match points against Dominic Thiem in Madrid. It seemed like the level he found in Melbourne was lost.
“I think losses, I think, they teach you the most, but it's tough. I'm not gonna lie. It sucks. It's terrible. You can't sleep for two days. You're pissed. You don't talk. You don't eat,” Dimitrov said on Saturday. “But, yes, you're supposed to feel that way. You need to grow somehow. You're going to grow winning matches like today, and you're going to grow from losing matches like that.”
In Cincinnati, those devastating defeats were pushed deep into the past as the Bulgarian won his first ATP Masters 1000 title in his first final at that level. He played his best tennis on the key points to beat Nick Kyrgios, 6-3, 7-5.
“I'm just happy. There's nothing else I can say, honestly,” Dimitrov said after his victory. “I'm just happy and I'm humbled to have that trophy in my hands, and especially to win here, my first Masters 1000. It's just amazing.”
Many may be quick to point out that seven of the world’s Top 10 did not play in the last big warm-up event before the US Open, mostly due to injuries. But Dimitrov’s road to the biggest title of his career was far from easy.
The 26-year-old overcame four Top 40 players, including Rio silver medalist Juan Martin del Potro—who he had never previously beaten in five attempts—and John Isner, who has held 146 of his 149 service games since Wimbledon. Then Dimitrov had to face one of the most talented players in the world in Kyrgios, in the first ATP Masters 1000 final between two players born in the 1990s or later.
Perhaps most importantly, while Dimitrov has failed to seize the moment numerous times this season, it was he who jumped on every opportunity this week. Even when Dimitrov served for the title—when you’d expect him to tighten up the most—his superb ability shone through.
On top of it all, Dimitrov did not drop a set all week.
“Going to the Open, it's for sure a lot of positivity with it,” Dimitrov said. “But the most important thing now is just to stay grounded, keep on doing the same work, believe in myself, and just prepare the best way that I can.”
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