MASON, Ohio – Grigor Dimitrov and Garbine Muguruza played their way into tennis annals Sunday by winning maiden Western & Southern Open singles championships at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza won her first title on American soil by ousting World No. 2 Simona Halep in a 6-1, 6-0 rout. Hours later, 11th-ranked Dimitrov won his first Masters 1000 tournament by neutralizing No. 23 Nick Kyrgios in a 6-3, 7-5 championship.
It was a rare final on the men’s side without the Big Four (Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic) as three were injured and Nadal lost in the quarterfinals. But it set up a clash of up-and-coming pros on a grand stage.
The women’s final had no shortage of subplots as Halep, a 2015 W&S Open finalist, needed the victory to claim the No. 1 spot in next week’s rankings. Sixth-ranked Muguruza foiled those plans, for a week at least.
The Spaniard made it all the way through despite nearly losing to Madison Keys in the Round of 16. She saved three match points and used the victory as a springboard.
“I didn’t feel like, ‘Oh, no.’ No, I felt good. I turned it around. I have more chances to play. I want to go for it. I wasn’t thinking, like, less pressure or something. I was hungry. I’m playing (Svetlana) Kuznetsova now. I have another chance. I was close to not having it. So I took the opportunity,” Muguruza said.
Dimitrov didn’t drop a set all week. A year after finishing in the W&S Open semifinals, the Bulgarian was the last man standing.
“I’m just happy. There’s nothing else I can say, honestly. I’m just happy and I’m humbled to have that trophy in my hands, and especially to win here, my first Masters 1000. It’s just amazing,” Dimitrov said.
The women’s final
Muguruza was happiness personified after she defeated Halep on Center Court. She dropped her racquet, raised her arms, and beamed.
The victory was a long time coming for the fourth-seeded player, who collected $522,450 and 900 WTA ranking points after a week of grueling matches. Besides Halep, Muguruza dispatched defending champion Karolina Pliskova, sixth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, Keys and a qualifier.
Center Court was, for many days, her home away from home.
“I think today was my best performance of the tournament, because I felt like I played 20 hours (on Center Court), you know. I had very long matches,” Muguruza said. “I think I did few little mistakes and my shots were very, you know, placed, and I think I was doing almost everything right there.”
Halep unraveled during the championship after not dropping a set all tournament. Muguruza raced to a first-set win in just 23 minutes, breaking Halep early for a 3-0 edge.
While Muguruza racked up five winners in the first 15 minutes, Halep looked frustrated. The Romanian prevailed in her second service game – her only hold of the match – but Muguruza returned the favor.
“She played really well, first of all, and she was hitting very strong, and after a few games I got down with the confidence,” Halep said. “I tried to hit the ball and couldn’t much. Then I tried to go back a little bit and was not good. So today I don’t really know what I had to do, and I think she was just too good today.”
About the only drama in the match came when Halep faced two break point opportunities in the second set. But her forehand return was short on the first attempt and Muguruza’s drop shot foiled the second.
Following the victory, Muguruza said she was excited to return to her rental house and relax with her team.
“I felt like I played so many matches in a row, very tough, little time to enjoy it. Because as soon as I won one, I was thinking already about the other one, especially one day I had to play almost back to back. Now it’s time for, whew, finally, relax,” Muguruza said.
The men’s final
There’s just something that Dimitrov likes about suburban Mason. The quietness, the wide open spaces, the barbeque options – and, of course, the W&S Open.
The 26-year-old player was the toast of the tournament after defeating Kyrgios in a battle of Masters 1000 finalist newbies. It marked his third title of the year -- and certainly the most prestigious.
“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, so…I will listen to my gut feeling a bit more,” Dimitrov said.
Seventh-seeded Dimitrov defeated Feliciano Lopez, Juan Martin del Potro, Yuichi Sugita, John Isner and Kyrgios throughout the week. He was rewarded with $954,225 in prize winnings and 1,000 ranking points.
Unseeded Kyrgios, 22, matched his foe game-for-game at the start but squandered two chances for breaks. Dimitrov made him pay with a break of his own and the Aussie never recovered.
The Bulgarian jumped ahead 4-2 and maintained a comfortable cushion en route to the first-set victory.
While Kyrgios amassed 11 unforced errors in the 34-minute first set, he retained a strong service game that at times flummoxed Dimitrov.
“I thought he served pretty well. I think that was getting him out of trouble pretty much every single time, and I knew – I mean, I knew I had to find a way just to get a few balls back and when it was very important,” Dimitrov said.
“After that, I just had to keep on playing, keep on with my game plan. You know, against him, you never know what’s going to come at you. I mean, he’s a type of player that can do anything and can generate unbelievable amount of power from pretty much any position, so I had to be very aware of that.”
Kyrgios erased two break points in the second set and fired an ace that helped him hold serve for a 4-3 advantage. The players extended the set to 5-5. Then Kyrgios double-faulted three times in one game and Dimitrov broke him before serving out the match.
Kyrgios’ 15 aces, including 11 in the second set, were tempered by his 28 unforced errors throughout. Dimitrov won 85 percent of his first serve points and prevailed in one hour and 25 minutes.
In the end, Kyrgios was pleased with his performance in Mason. And fatigued.
“It’s been my first week in a while where I have played five tough back-to-back matches, and obviously that day when I played two in one day (due to rain) was tough. I was feeling it. I thought (Dimitrov) definitely looked fresher out of the two of us. He’s unbelievably fit. He trains very, very hard,” Kyrgios said. “I wasn’t feeling unbelievable out there, but, you know, he played really well. He barely missed a ball and…he's a great athlete. He deserved that today, 100 percent.”