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Grigor Dimitrov Folds To Daniil Medvedev At The 2019 U.S. Open Tennis • 10sBalls

By Alix Ramsay 

Many, many years ago, in the days before Andy Murray had learned how to win grand slam titles, he made a famous speech at the Australian Open.

He had just been clumped by Roger Federer and it hurt. He warned Roger that he wasn’t sure he could hold it together during the presentation ceremony and, sure enough, his voice cracked and the tears flowed.

“I can cry like Roger Federer,” Murray said, mopping himself up, “it’s just a shame I can’t play like him.”

Grigor Dimitrov might want to paraphrase that line: he can hit his forehands and backhands like Roger Federer, it is just a shame he can’t play like him.

Roger, no matter what the situation, no matter how bad the injury, has cojones of steel. Grigor, no matter how well he may have been playing in the lead-up, has the heart of a pea. Which explains why it is Daniil Medvedev who will be in his first grand slam final on Sunday and why Grigor will be left pondering what might have been. Again.

The Bulgarian – who currently resides at his lowest ranking in seven years, No.78 – had had a horrible run through the summer: one win since leaving Roland Garros. But then he came to New York and his luck changed. He got a walk over in the first round (Borna Coric’s injury removed one seed from his path), Alex de Minaur removed another by beating Kei Nishikori (and then Dimitrov beat de Minaur). Then he beat an injured Federer in the quarter-final. It is not that he had it easy, but he could have had it a lot worse. That was when he ran into the brick wall that is Medvedev. And that was when he was found out.

Dimitrov should have won the first set – he was by far the better player. But he didn’t. He wilted in the tiebreak. He took the early lead in the second set and was immediately broken. From there he was running uphill in lead boots trying to keep pace with the Russian and, unsurprisingly, it was a race he was never going to win. In the third set, he was never in contention.

The Beautiful Bulgarian is the poster boy of his generation, the forgotten generation. They were the first group to come through and threaten the big boys at the top. They were new, they were full of confidence and they tried to walk with a certain swagger. The big boys, though, saw them coming and saw their multiple flaws – and they walloped them.

Now the lost boys have been replaced by a new wave of young talent, only this new crop is better, more talented and has more backbone. They haven’t made the breakthrough yet but they have achieved more in the past few years than the lost generation have ever achieved. The best of that new bunch so far is Medvedev.

When his back was to the wall in the semi-final (in that first set tiebreak, for example), he came out with all guns blazing: he attacked, he took his courage in both hands and he went for it. And it worked. When Dimitrov’s back was to the wall, he folded. Simple as that.

In theory, Dimitrov was the one with the experience: he won the end of year finals in 2017, he had been to a grand slam semi-final before. Yet it was Medvedev, the exhausted Medvedev with the sore leg and little but fumes left in his tank, who hung on, who fought and defended, and who after two hours and 38 minutes, forced his way into the US Open final.

“I have to tell you it sounds not bad,” the remarkably calm Russian said. “I said before: it’s been a tournament of controversies. I felt in the first set that he was much closer to win; I won it and completely changed the momentum of the match and finally I’m here – three sets, I think the second time this tournament I played only three sets, and I’m just happy to be in the final.”

It was his 20th win in a 22-match run through the hard court summer and his fourth consecutive final appearance. Only Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi ever managed to dominate the American summer swing of tournaments like that and now here was the 23-year-old Russian taking it all in his stride.

When he won, there was no emotional celebration, no jumping for joy, no breast-beating or tears. He just looked towards his box and gave them a knowing look. A good job well done. Just like in those other 19 matches.

“I have to say, when I was going to the USA, I didn’t know it’s going to be that good so I have to say, I love the USA,” he said. “It’s been a crazy journey. If somebody would have told me before the first round that in the second round I’m going to get cramps, third and fourth round it’s not going to be easy because of what I did, quarter-final against Stan – three-time major winner – I would say ‘OK, I’m done. I’m not playing US Open’. But, finally, I am standing here giving an interview to you guys before playing the final on Sunday and I’m just really happy.”

They used to call Dimitrov Baby Fed – and he hated it. But to compare the Bulgarian to the GOAT is to do Fed a disservice. Medvedev may not play like Federer, he may not act like Federer and he may not cry like Federer. But he knows how to win like Federer.

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