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Dimitrov Roars Into First Masters 1000 Final

Grigor Dimitrov will play in the biggest final of his career after edging John Isner 7-6(4), 7-6(10) in a gripping semi-final encounter at the Western & Southern Open.

With the partisan home crowd firmly in Isner's favour, Dimitrov played the role of spoiler, reaching his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final after two hours and three minutes. The seventh seed fired 10 aces, while overcoming 14 blasts off the Isner frame.

Grigor Dimitrov reaches his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final in Cincinnati.
Dimitrov has found his top gear this week at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati, not dropping a set en route to his 12th ATP World Tour final and third of the year. He lifted the trophy in Brisbane and Sofia to open his 2017 campaign.

The Bulgarian will face either Nick Kyrgios or David Ferrer in Sunday's final.

"I think it's a good step," said Dimitrov. "It's a good step. I have been on the tour for quite some time now, and I appreciate those moments. I'm starting to appreciate them even more.

"Being able to compete at a final, it's always a great feeling. No matter Masters 1000 or 250, it's always something that you work for. It all comes down to that.

"For me, as I said, right now is just all about just going step by step and just building up not only my confidence, my game, to be able to do that pretty much every time I'm entering a tournament. And I feel good. I think the body is responding well. I have been playing good tennis, as well. So that actually helps.

"Hopefully tomorrow is going to be one of those days that I can, again, produce good tennis. But not only that. I just kind of want to make sure that I'm going in the right direction."

More than two years removed from their lone previous encounter on the hard courts of Miami, Dimitrov struggled to adapt to Isner's heavy game as proceedings got underway on a hot and humid afternoon. The Bulgarian found his own serve under attack as well, converting just one of his first six second-serve points.

Isner applied the pressure midway through the set, earning a pair of break points at 3-2 15/40. But Dimitrov held his ground, turning aside both opportunities and escaping a deuce game at 4-3. The opener would move to a tie-break, where Dimitrov's first backhand winner of the match arrived at a critical juncture. A 95 mph laser into the corner earned him the decisive mini-break for 3/2 and he would take the opener after 50 minutes.

Dimitrov entered the match with a staggering 26-4 record in 2017 when winning the first set. He survived a 12-point opening service game in the second set, striking a sublime drop shot winner to hold.

Both players would have their chances as the set moved towards an inevitable tie-break. Isner was clutch in the crucial moments. Serving to stay in the match at 5-4, he saved a match point with a thunderous serve out wide and turned aside two more at 7/6 and 9/8 in the ensuing tie-break.

Painting line after line, Dimitrov saved a set point at 10/9 with a brilliant backhand winner down the line and carried the momentum into his fourth match point, which he converted as Isner netted a forehand. Both players fired 27 winners during the two-hour clash, but it was Dimitrov who was steadier from the back of the court, hitting 22 unforced errors to Isner's 37.

"Today was, I think, one of those matches that I really had to just be patient. I think that that was the key. I knew I'm not going to have that many rallies against John. I knew that he's going to serve big, bold serves.

"I just had to be very composed and use every opportunity that I had," Dimitrov added. "I think in the end of the match, it was just a few points that made the biggest difference for me.

"I'm just happy obviously with the win, but I'm just happy with the way I kept myself together throughout the whole match. Just remained calm in those tough moments. I mean, I know it's nerve-wracking from outside, but it's even tougher when you're in there and have to receive a serve that comes 141 miles an hour."

Dimitrov is the fourth player to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final this year. He joins Albert Ramos-Vinolas (Monte Carlo), Dominic Thiem (Madrid) and Alexander Zverev (Rome) as final debutantes.

Isner was bidding to reach his fourth Masters 1000 final and second in Cincinnati. The 2013 finalist (l. to Nadal) is in the midst of a staggering service rhythm despite the loss, holding in 146 of his last 149 service games. The North Carolina native will next move to Winston-Salem where he is the third seed.

 "I think the difference was he was a bit more decisive in the big moments," said Isner. "Maybe a little calmer, as well. Sometimes you take the court and everything is going well and you're not thinking too much out there and things are free flowing. At times that was the case out there for me, but at times maybe it wasn't. And I think that cost me a little bit. I just think he was, as I said, a little more decisive and a little more free flowing in the big moments. And of course in a match like that, separated by a few points here or there, that was the case. So credit to him.

"I think I stepped up this week, which is what I was doing prior to this week, as well, and that's just sort of going for my shots. There are some times when I didn't, but all in all, I think I just gotta keep that up. It's the only way I can play.

"And looking ahead to the US Open, I have a good team, got a great coach and great person to keep me healthy, so just keep working on the right things and I should be in pretty good shape heading into that tournament."

Source: http://www.atpworldtour.com/en/news/cincinnati-2017-saturday-dimitrov-isner

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