Glory Be To The Underachievers

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Grigor Dimitrov and Nick Kyrgios are two of the most watchable players on tour, with sure feel and shot-making for days. They may also be the two players with the most inborn talent but the least hardware to show for it. They are almost certainly the two players with the strangest “posts on this blog:title wins” ratio. And yet there they were yesterday, in the final of the Masters 1000 in Cincinnati, at 26 and 22 competing for the most significant title of either player’s life. Dimitrov, the Federer-lite who looked so dominant early this season, played some startlingly good ball and won 6-3, 7-5.

It’s funny how much more diverse the late stages of a Masters event get when Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Stan Wawrinka are absent. The paths to this final were far softer than at any comparable event in recent memory: Dimitrov didn’t see a single top-10 player, and though he did have to fell big-serving John Isner and Juan Martin del Potro, the rest was mostly cake. Kyrgios, meanwhile, defeated ninth-seeded David Goffin, he of the recently busted ankle, in the first round. In the quarterfinal he upset top seed Rafael Nadal—you should really see how he did it—and then took out David Ferrer in the semifinal. After a dull summer of injury and early exits, these were the best two matches the Australian has strung together in months, full displays of untouchable serving and baseline power. He couldn’t manage that same register yesterday in the final, with his backhand faltering (12 errors on that side) and three untimely double-faults in his last service game, but credit Dimitrov’s absurd speed and defense for always forcing Kyrgios to hit one more ball:

As someone who deeply enjoys both dudes’ styles of play, it’s a cool drop of relief to see them shut up the skeptics and sustain good tennis for a whole week to make a final of this magnitude. But as someone who has watched both long enough to know, I would not go so far as to confidently project big things for either at the U.S. Open, which begins next week. They’re just a little too volatile for any bold predictions. Just hold out modest hope and believe it when you see it. The unending Federer-Nadal show has been pleasant enough, but, c’mon—let them duel for year-end No. 1 and leave this dang thing for someone else. It’s bizarre to see it in writing, but in 2017 the most radical outcome might simply be someone in their 20s lifting a major trophy.