Cincinnati: Grigor Dimitrov clinched the biggest title of his career and enjoyed a huge confidence boost ahead of the US Open by beating Nick Kyrgios 6-3 7-5 to win the Cincinnati Open on Sunday.
With three of the ‘Big Four’ players nursing injuries and Rafa Nadal knocked out in the quarter-finals by Kyrgios, Bulgarian Dimitrov grasped his chance with both hands, winning his first Masters 1000 series event under a broiling hot sun.
A break in each set was enough for the seventh seed to claim his third title of the year and seventh of his career.
“I’m just happy. There’s nothing else I can say, honestly,” the 26-year-old told reporters.
“I’m just happy and I’m humbled to have that trophy in my hands, and especially to win here, my first Masters 1000.
“I always like this tournament. I have played it quite a few times and always thought this can be maybe one of the first ones, and it is the first one.”
Dimitrov did not drop a set all tournament, the first player to do so at a Masters 1000 tournament since Novak Djokovic’s 2007 win at Miami.
He was almost impregnable on serve, winning 52 of his 53 service games.
“Going to the (US) Open, it’s for sure a lot of positivity with it,” said Dimitrov, a semi-finalist at the Australian Open in January.
“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 for the Open.” Both players were in their maiden Masters 1000 title match but Dimitrov showed more poise than his 22-year-old opponent, saving a pair of early break points to set the tone.
Kyrgios’s 31 unforced errors comfortably outstripped his 21 winners, the combustible Australian unable to find the magic he produced in his quarter-final win over Nadal.
But he was thrilled with his run to a first final of the year, having been jeered by the crowd three weeks ago at the Citi Open in Washington D.C. when he retired from his match with a shoulder injury.
“Looking back from where I was ... I would have never thought I would have had my first Masters 1000 event final,” he said.
Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, meanwhile, humbled second-ranked Simona Halep 6-1, 6-0 in the women’s final, denying the Romanian the world number one spot in the process.
Sixth-seeded Spaniard Muguruza needed only 56 minutes to capture her second title of the year and her first in a US event, taking the $522,450 top prize in the last major US Open tune-up.
“The American swing was never going my way,” Muguruza said. “Finally, this year, I improved that.”
It marked the third loss of the year for Halep when she was playing for the top ranking, also falling in the French Open final against Jelena Ostapenko and the Wimbledon quarter-final against Johanna Konta, each time after taking the first set.
“Maybe I feel the pressure and I don’t realise it,” Halep said. “Maybe I just played bad.”
Halep’s coach, Darren Cahill, told ESPN the French Open loss still haunts her, saying: “There’s still a little leftover residue from Paris. It takes some time to get over that.”
Halep apologised to spectators after the embarrassing defeat, thanking them for support “even if I played so bad and Muguruza played so well.”
“It was a big shame to lose 6-1, 6-0 in the final,” Halep said. “I got dominated. I can’t control anymore the points. That’s why I got down in my confidence.”
Muguruza admitted after the lopsided win: “I feel a little bit bad. But I want to be in her position. I wanted to win. What can I do?”
Czech Karolina Pliskova, a semi-final loser to Muguruza, will remain world number one by a five-point margin over Halep.