I was wrong on this one, on the pick to win the match. Kyrgios was awful and Dimitrov was steady enough to take care of business, which is no small task in the heat of R16 play at a major. He played and acted like a top seed. Very good to see this Dimitrov, which did appear to be a more business-like, mentally stronger player than the one against McDonald or Rublev. And what do we expect from these top players in these big tournaments? To progress, raise their level of play round-by-round. Sampras and Djokovic come to mind as players who have talked about this kind of approach, but of course applies to most winners: save your best for last, when the stakes are highest.
Dimitrov’s serve improved from R32. The DFs were here and there, but his first serve (don’t have nor need match stats) was effective enough (I remember seeing him reach the high 60% on FS) to steady a game, avoid BP, etc. His mid 120s and 130 mph FS is a big neutralizer, which kept Kyrgios from getting many looks at BP. He basically went serve-for-serve against Nick’s monster. And when he had a second serve, Kyrgios simply couldn’t capitalize. The second serve is one of Grigor’s weaknesses, but this did not really come-into play. Through the first couple of sets, Nick had one, maybe two BPs.
As far as Nick unable to do much of anything with the Dimitrov second serve, Kyrgios was a mess in this R16 match. Looking at the score-line, one thinks tight match, that the Bulgarian was simply better in those bigger points, the TBs, steadier, fewer mistakes. All of this is true. But Kyrgios resorted to the basket-case. He was, emotionally and thus mechanically, a mess.
Sure we point to the bickering at his box. I found more court-side evidence that he was yelling at his box to stand-up and support. We’ve seen Nick do this in the past, but this distraction got apparently quite explosive.
What we all saw begin early in the first set was his complaint concerning string tension, how it wasn’t right — and one could read his accusation aimed at his box, something to the extent that this is all you had to do today. Bottom-line: he was distracted, animated, his body language read very disappointed, and this only made beating a guy like Dimitrov, who had come to play, that much more difficult. As the call pointed-out correctly on several occasions, Nick kept the crowd out of the match. Not a good idea given the context of this event.
Yet he still played the 3-seed almost even. Or did he? If you watched the match, you knew the scoreline was misleading.
I believe it was after the first set when the broadcast showed a graphic of Dimitrov’s FH and BH percentages, indicating what shot he was hitting most. The graphic read ~90% FH and ~10% BH — again, this was first set data, but probably is reflected more or less through out the match. What does this mean?
If you watched Dimitrov v Rublev (or read my preview of this R16 match, which clarified this huge vulnerability) you witnessed how Grigor’s BH (as my 14 year-old son would say) is “trash.” Yet Kyrgios kept going to the Bulgarian’s FH, his main weapon, and when Nick did hit to the BH, Grigor was able to run-around and make the sloppy Aussie pay. This was a huge shortcoming from Kyrgios’ R16 game plan, as if he even had one.
And speaking of BH, Nick’s was non-existent. Though his FH is certainly rich with pace and spin that dazzles opponents and fans alike, there’s often too much spin. His BH is flat and can silence opponents CC and DTL; it’s more effortless (can be a glorified block) and more effective. He didn’t have this shot, especially early in the match when the players jockeyed for control.
He blew chances at Dimitrov’s second serve, often this BH not finding his usual timing.
And his footwork was a clear indication that he was out of sorts. The flat-footed rip at the ball that goes awry is a synonym for disengaged, mentally soft or whatever is ailing the poor guy.
The broadcast previewed the match by talking about the Nick Kyrgios Foundation. This is giving the Aussie more purpose on the court, as he often admits to not sensing sometimes enough meaning out there (read: tanking). I then read he’d played with a terminally ill kid earlier in the day, prior to his match against Dimitrov. Nick is working on his maturity, one has to conclude here.
And maybe he was just beaten by the better player last night.
But the mumbling, barking and staring at the box, even while awaiting a serve, the shaking of the head even after a beautiful winner (!), but of course through out, especially after an error, and the flat-footed version of Kyrgios, throwing his efforts at the Dimitrov FH, not having much to show in the BP department, never really finding that BH: basically this rendered a potentially brilliant player with not nearly enough to make the match interesting at all. That’s what I saw.
Nick’s serve keeps him in just about every match. But at R16 play at a major, one needs a bit more than that.
Be that as it may, good on Dimitrov. His serve, footwork to run around those ad court balls, to chase, set-up overheads, etc., his wherewithal to come-to-net to finish critical points and so on made a great case for this maturing world #3.
But as we said in our preview, I’m not necessarily sold on him vs. Nadal. And would it shock you if he lost to a surging Edmund, who, as I said in my draw analysis, has a very solid (big) game.
Nadal made mincemeat of Diego and now Cilic (well done, big guy) awaits.
Let’s hope Dimitrov does clear this next match and reaches the SF.
Could be quite a story.