Grigor Dimitrov saved two match points in the third set, a fleeting sign that perhaps the lowest-ranked semifinalist at the U.S. Open since 1991 could somehow scrap to one more set. Then maybe, an astounding comeback.
For the Bulgarian who knocked Roger Federer out of Flushing Meadows, anything seemed possible.
“I was very positive in the third set, really,” Dimitrov said. “I mean, I still had chances.”
But Daniil Medvedev kept a comeback far at bay, beating Dimitrov 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals Friday at Arthur Ashe Stadium . Dimitrov’s wave of tough tennis wilted with a Grand Slam finals berth at stake.
But the 28-year-old Dimitrov, once ranked as high as No. 3, refused to think about what could have been had he defeated Medvedev. His run in New York - highlighted by that five-set quarterfinal win over Federer - was a plucky reminder of how just how good he could be at his best.
“I don’t want to be too down on myself,” he said. “Great weeks. First time in semifinal out here. Just going to take a lot of the positives, for sure.”
Dimitrov, now ranked 78th, had lost seven of eight matches headed into the U.S. Open , including a straight-sets loss No. 405 Kevin King in July at the Atlanta Open. He lost in the first round of the Rogers Cup and the Western & Southern Open.
That certainly didn’t foreshadow what happened in New York, when he became the lowest-ranked semifinalist since Jimmy Connors was out of the top 150 in 1991. Connors was even in the stands watching Friday night.
Perhaps Dimitrov knew something: He captioned an Instagram post at the start of the tournament, “So good to be back in New York!”
Indeed it was, and seemed for a time on the brink of continuing into Sunday’s final. Dimitrov was a point away while leading 6-5 as Medvedev served in the first set. But Dimitrov pounded one forehand into the net and another went long that allowed Medvedev to rally for the win.
Dimitrov actually won more points in the set than Medvedev, 43-41. He totaled twice as many winners, 14-7, and made fewer unforced errors, 18-15.
But he came up small in sets won: 0
“I just didn’t play good enough on those key points, especially the set point in the first set,” Dimitrov said. “I knew what he’s going to do. He came up with the goods. Second set, again, I was not able to get free points on my serve, or on his for that matter.”
Dimitrov, who was long ago dubbed “Baby Fed” because of his similar one-handed backhand and all-court game to Federer, had needed nearly 1½ years before he reached a semifinal at any tour-level event, much less a major. He lost this year in the fourth round at the Australian Open, the third round at the French Open and the first round at Wimbledon.
His coaches, Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek, didn’t even bother to show up in New York.
They were surely watching somewhere - a one-time can’t-miss prospect who finally delivered on some of that potential.
“I still felt that I could have done something else,” he said. “I just don’t know what it is right now.”
DOUBLE THE PLEASURE
Whenever, wherever, Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah are ready to celebrate another Grand Slam title.
Cabal and Farah were already feted with a huge celebration in Colombia after they won the doubles titles at Wimbledon. The party might be lit after they became the first Colombian men’s team to win the doubles title at the U.S. Open on Friday.
Cabal and Farah beat Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos 6-4, 7-5 in the final. They won their fifth title of the season and became the sixth team to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same year in the Open era.
Farah returned from Wimbledon to a celebration in Bogota that about made him want to shake his hips.
“I felt like Shakira for two hours,” he said. “You come out and there is all these journalists, and everyone’s coming and they’re chanting ‘Colombia! Colombia!’ and there is a bunch of flags in the airport.”
Cabal was greeted by thousands of fans at the airport in the Colombian city, Cali. He rode around in a firetruck with Colombian flags waving in celebration.
“We just have to say, ‘Thank you, Colombia,’ for all that support and that good vibe they always give us,” he said. “We are very happy to represent our country the way that we are doing it.”
Cabal and Farah celebrated Friday a year after they were knocked out in the semifinals by eventual champs Mike Bryan and Jack Sock. Cabal and Farah hit 32 winners on Friday and needed just 90 minutes in Arthur Ashe Stadium . They are the third men’s doubles team since 2003 to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in a season.
DOUBLE THE FUN
The fourth-seeded team of Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka will play for the U.S. Open women’s doubles title.
Mertens and Sabalenka rallied to beat Caroline Dolehide and Vania King 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in Friday’s semifinal. They advance to play Ash Barty and Victoria Azarenka for the championship on Sunday.
Barty won the women’s doubles title last year at Flushing Meadows with CoCo Vandeweghe. Vandeweghe was still recovering from ankle problems this year so Barty is teaming with Azarenka, who like Barty is a former top-ranked singles player and major champion.
Mertens and Sabalenka are trying to win their first Grand Slam title together, getting as far as the French Open semifinals this year.
Mertens and Sabalenka defeated Azarenka and Barty this year in the semifinals at Miami in the only career meeting between the teams.
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