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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, August 20, 2017

Grigor Dimitrov

Grigor Dimitrov did not drop serve dispatching Nick Kyrgios, 6-3, 7-5, in the Cincinnati final to capture his first career Masters championship without surrendering a set.

Photo credit: Western & Southern Open Facebook

Streaking so far off the court, he probably could have told time glancing at the linesman's wristwatch, Grigor Dimitrov delivered a timely bolt of brilliance.

Dimitrov’s sensational running forehand in the final game helped him finally reach the Masters promised land.

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Contesting his 250th career hard-court match, Dimitrov dispatched Nick Kyrgios, 6-3, 7-5, to capture his first career Masters 1000 championship.

The victory will vault Dimitrov back into the Top 10 when the new ATP rankings are released tomorrow. 

"It means a lot to me," Dimitrov told ESPN's Brad Gilbert afterward. "I’m pretty confident after that win. I’m still pretty humbled and down to earth.

"This is what I’ve been practicing for especially for next week at the Open. Of course I’m very happy with this—this is my biggest win—but after that it’s getting back to work and getting ready for the Open."

It is Dimitrov’s third title of the season and caps a brilliant week in which he did not drop a set in tournament victories over Feliciano Lopez, Juan Martin del Potro, Yuichi Sugita, John Isner and Kyrgios.

The seventh-seeded Bulgarian hit his running forehand with tremendous control and ambition, mixed the no-pace slice to deny his opponent much rhythm and effectively beat Kyrgios in most of the extended baseline rallies.

The 23rd-ranked Aussie did not play poorly, but Kyrgios’ typically rock-solid two-handed backhand let him down and he crumbled in a three double fault debacle of a game to donate the only break of the second set and a 6-5 lead to Dimitrov.

This was the first Masters final between two men born in the 1990s and the first time two Masters finals debutants met in a Masters 1000 final since 2002 when Andy Roddick, now in the Hall of Fame, defeated Guillermo Canas, now a coach, in the 2002 Toronto title match.

The match was a rematch of the 2015 Indian Wells in which Dimitrov prevailed 7-6 (2), 3-6, 7-6 (4), after Kyrgios, who rolled his ankle, failed to serve it out at 5-4.

The 11th-ranked Bulgarian, who entered the final having held in 41 of 42 service games, bolted an ace down the middle holding at 15 for 2-1. Kyrgios cranked a 138 mph service winner to level after four games.

Naturally, nerves were expected given it was the biggest final of both men’s careers.

Jitters struck Dimitrov who dumped successive double faults facing the first break point of the final. A running stretch forehand kept Dimitrov in the point and he coaxed an error to save it, eventually earning his 26th straight hold in the fifth game.

"I was so nervous," Dimitrov told ESPN's Chris Fowler afterward. "I tried to contain myself. I knew I can beat him. I knew what I had to do. But you never know how it’s going to come out.

"Nick is a great guy. A couple of weeks ago we practiced quite a few times. He has quite a few tools to rattle you. The nerves were there, but at the end of the day I was just going for it."

A pair of electric running forehands helped Dimitrov make inroads in the following game. Sliding a no-pace slice backhand into the middle of the court, Dimitrov drew an error for break point at 22 minutes.

Lassoing a hopping forehand return helped Dimitrov break for 4-2.

Confronting a second break point in the ensuing game, Dimitrov saved it on Kyrgios’ sixth backhand error, then struck with authority confirming the break.

Burying a 135 mph bullet off the back wall brought Dimitrov to triple set point. When Kyrgios blocked a forehand return beyond the baseline, Dimitrov had the 34-minute first set dropping just seven points on serve with three of those on double faults.

The abbreviated backswing of Kyrgios’ two-handed backhand makes it a dangerous and reliable shot, but he was misfiring on that shot today. A 10th backhand error put him at 30-all in the third game. Kyrgios detonated a 122 mph second serve, muttering “it’s ridiculously hot out here” as he marched through a tough hold for 2-1.

Stinging successive aces—his ninth and 10th of the day—Kyrgios slammed a love hold for 3-2.

The Dimitrov running forehand helped him carve out break points in the seventh game.

Masterful control of shifting spins, speeds and location makes Kyrgios’ serve one of the most lethal weapons in the sport. He can launch 140 mph-plus rockets down the middle or bend sub 100 mph kick serves out wide.

Shrewdly serving wide, Kyrgios saved the first break point with a 103 mph kicker and came back bending a 103 mph twisting serve to deny the second break point. A 135 bullet off the back well—that made a fan in the front row recoil from the force—helped Kyrgios navigate a six-minute hold for 4-3.

The man who had served so boldly dismissing 15-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals on Friday night, blinked in an atrocious 11th game.

Kyrgios clanked three double faults, waving his hands toward his box in dismay at one point, then bungled a forehand beyond the baseline gift-wrapping the break and a 6-5 lead to his opponent.

The 6-foot-3 Dimitrov’s athleticism and speed around the court are major assets. He showed both launching that tremendous running forehand strike skidding to a stop well off the baseline.

On his second championship point, Dimitrov closed it on a Kyrgios error. The friends engaged in an extended embrace at net—perhaps the first final of a future rivalry between superb shotmakers.


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