AO R16: Dimitrov Outclasses Kyrgios

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 TELEMMGLPICT000151950906-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqVnGZDHLVbaDWtLqzwQh5-XkyztDRjf0dUW_myY0VgWIappear 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.

9 thoughts on “AO R16: Dimitrov Outclasses Kyrgios

  1. An

    I thought Kyrgios played really well this match. Every tiebreak Grigor was pulling something ridiculous out of his ass to get a point on Kyrgios’s serve. And I vehemently disagree with your assessments of both of their backhands. Yeah they were nearly invisible in the first set, but Kyrgios was finding Dimitrov’s backhand plenty in the next three. Dimitrov upped his backhand’s level immensely from what it was in his last few matches. Granted, it’s easily the worst one-hander left in the draw, but there was actually some quality shotmaking off that wing, which is a vast improvement over his 1 backhand winner through 4 sets performance against McDonald. His backhand dropped off a bit in the third set, but by and large it was solid the whole match.

    Kyrgios’s backhand was very blah the first set and a half, but it picked up in the second set and was very good for the last two. You really seem like you’re just upset that Kyrgios is out because you considered him the biggest obstacle for Nadal before the final. That may have been true, but it’s no reason to denigrate a good performance. Besides, Nadal isn’t exactly in world-beater form. I’d hardly call a 4 hour 4-setter “making mincemeat” out of Schwartzman. He could easily lose to Cilic.


    1. The first two sets in that match decided the outcome. Kyrgios can’t win with so much distraction and inability. He was off, flatfooted and without the serve not really in the match. The scoreline is enticing, for some viewers. Wasn’t really that close.

      Maybe you watched highlights.

      Down 0-2, the match is pretty much decided. This was decided earlier than “his form improved later in the match.” You thought Kyrgios played well, I do not. At all.

      I like Grigor’s tennis and have been critical of Kyrgios since forever. I just think Kyrgios has more to offer at the business end of a tournament. And the game needs the Kyrgios and Zverev types to pull their shit together.

      And as I said, the outcome of Nadal here is beside the points I made. His draws continue to defy possibility. Period.


      1. An

        I streamed the entire match and I thought Kyrgios was good. But it’s fine if we have a difference of opinion. The thing I’ve seen with Kyrgios is that when he’s playing his opponent close, even if he’s losing, there’s always a chance (provided he doesn’t melt down, which is definitely a possibility) that something will click and he’ll completely eclipse his opponent’s level and pull away. Case in point: for a guy with such lackluster fitness, he already has more than his fair share of comebacks from down two sets to love. He has 3, I think, including one at this slam and in this round against Seppi 2 years ago. So right up until Dimitrov’s pass sailed by him on match point, I thought he could win the match, especially since Dimitrov could have easily collapsed mentally if he lost that 4th set.


    2. Admittedly, I’m being pretty critical, but I’ve seen and feel like I know the Kyrgios genius (I think of two matches v Federer as good examples — Miami ’17 and Laver Cup final match). I am convinced that if a player gets that chirpy and animated, he’s DOOMED. Murray sans Lendl early-on is another good example. Just a disaster. So when Kyrgios got distracted by off-court crap last night in the first, and his tennis was pretty crap in the first set, he was doomed (those lack-luster swipes at the ball are symptoms of a tank; his tennis in those Miami and Laver matches was focused — sure he might have gotten a little frustrated with the crowd in Miami, but he was dialed-in).

      However, when he walked to his seat after the second set TB (breaking to level the set at 5-5 in the second was solid and the BH did make an appearance), he looked at his box and nodded as if he had this, would come back. I didn’t put it past him. He’s that good.

      And Dimitrov closing him out in that fourth TB — big stuff from him, for sure. I did write in my post about how he stepped-up, changed the tenor of his game, which is a great sign.

      I am simply stuck on that attitude coming-out of the gates in the first. The writing was on the wall for me. I’ve watched so much tennis throughout my life and those are bad signs, especially for a guy like him, who has that history of beating himself. The beginning was the end for Nick, imho. Dimitrov (and Vallverdu) are not here to make nice, so you give Grigor those chances, just too much to overcome. Granted, Dimitrov could have folded, but I’m stuck on the introduction to the match. He can’t do that. I’m thinking for his sake. He has that Tomic gene, unfortunately. Sure he seems to be moving in the right direction, but it’s a deadly, cardinal sin in such high-level competitive environments. The opponent wants to destroy you, and you’re going to help him/her?

      For me, the opening set and a half spoiled the match.

      Nick has a long way to go. But his tennis remains a massive talent that the sport could use. I think it’s safe to begin to assume that Nick has big vulnerability playing a regular guy on tour, especially in these big matches (when one would think perhaps of Grigor more in that light). Nick against a legend? Look-out. Nick against a Dimitrov or Querrey type — I’m thinking of guys he lost to recently in big matches that he shouldn’t have lost to — and he can get bored.

      Thanks for the comments, An. I respect your take on the match.

      I guess I’m just intolerant. 🙂


      1. An

        I respect your take on the match too. And I usually agree that histrionics early in a match are a death sentence for tempermental players. However, as in so many other things, I think Kyrgios may now be an exception. Sure he has imploded spectacularly after such antics in the past (see Final, 2017 China Open), but he managed to keep himself in check just last round! He was chirping a lot against Tsonga. A big difference there was that Tsonga gifted him the first set with a double fault, and maybe if he hadn’t we’d be dissecting Kyrgios’s tantrums as a reason he lost to Tsonga, but I think Kyrgios has shown a ton of growth this year in not letting his frustration torpedo his play. This is his first loss on the year, though, so perhaps he’ll regress now.

        I thought he was outplayed by Dimitrov, but not because he was phoning it in. I agree with your point about him often not trying as hard against players he should beat, but I don’t think this is usually his problem against Dimitrov. I think Dimitrov is a really bad matchup for Kyrgios. I don’t know when it happened, but Dimitrov has morphed into an elite defender. His movement is fantastic. I think he’s one of the only players who can both consistently take control of a neutral rally to blast the ball past Kyrgios and consistently cede little ground to him while defending. His slice seems to have the ideal combination of lack of pace and low bounce height to bother Kyrgios. A few more wins against him and it might be called the Kyrgios Killer. I’m actually very excited to see how their rivalry shapes up in the future.

        Oh, and I’d like to thank you for maintaining one of the only tennis fanblogs with actual quality writing. (I meant fan of the sport, not fan of a player. Please don’t kill me.)


    3. “Oh, and I’d like to thank you for maintaining one of the only tennis fanblogs with actual quality writing. (I meant fan of the sport, not fan of a player. Please don’t kill me.)”

      Nice recovery there though you could have edited the “fanblog” part. 🙂
      You were on thin ice there, An. Ha ha.

      Going to try and finish and publish this Djoker Chung post. Wow.
      Talk about a high level of ball striking and defense. That kid came through the back door.
      Beats Rublev in the Next Gen final and then makes, likely, a GS SF. . .great stuff.

      We’ll see how Dimitrov backs-up his Kyrgios win against a player he should be, but could certainly be tough. Dimitrov has to advance.


  2. Caligula

    Tough to say if Kyrgios can shine against an in-form Dimitrov, Matt is right when he points out that Kyrgios didn’t bring his A game to the match, but can he when Dimitrov is so fast around the Court and seemingly tires Kyrgios out, the Australian isn’t known for his patience after all…


    1. I feel like when Kyrgios is feeling it, as he has against the legends, he’s unplayable. Almost.
      Federer has beaten an in-form Nick in a few doozies. Dimitrov has the full package. Almost.
      He needs a better second serve and needs to strengthen the BH ala Federer.

      This is baby Fed’s only hope. . . 😀


  3. Pingback: Dimitrov Falls to Kyle Edmund – Mcshow Blog

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