Heading into the final day of fourth round action at the 2014 US Open, the scene was set for Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov to do their thing and setup the quarterfinal matchup tennis fans across the world were dying to see. While the Swiss Maestro held up his end of the bargain in taking care of No. 17 seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, the twenty-three year old Bulgarian succumbed to the pressure of the moment.
While there is no shame in losing a match to Gael Monfils, especially when the Frenchman is playing at the level he has shown at Flushing Meadows, at some point you have to start questioning Dimitrov's ability to come up with the goods when the pressure is on. Dropping a 5-7, 6-7(6), 5-7 decision may not be the equivalent of being bounced from the tournament 3, 4, 3 at this stage of the competition all that truly matters is the result.
Following his semi-final appearance against Novak Djokovic back in early July at Wimbledon, many felt the time had come for the kid to take that next step in his development. After seeing how the draw played out for the No. 7 seed at this year's Open Championship, it appeared as though it was a no-brainer that we would finally be treated to the "Fed - Baby Fed" showdown on Arthur Ashe Stadium during quarterfinal action. The only potential roadblock looked to be the always entering but typically inconsistent Monfils.
Not sure about any of you but watching Dimitrov fall in straight sets to the number twenty-four player in the world, with the opportunity he had staring him in directly in the face, was rather concerning. Much like Milos Raonic and his inability to closeout Kei Nishikori during their Round of Sixteen five set marathon, the Bulgarian showed a lack of a killer instinct when it mattered most. As well as Monfils played, it was not as if the twenty-eight year old was unconscious on the afternoon. Yes he was solid from start to finish and did a wonderful job of limiting the amount of unforced errors he committed on the day but we are not talking about an "out-of-body" experience here.
All Dimitrov had to do was be at his best when it mattered most and this one could have truly gone in a completely different direction. Sure you could point to the scoreline and say it was just a matter of Monfils being better during a handful of points that allowed him go through in the fashion he did but how is that different than any other match? We can go back just a few short weeks to the Cincinnati Masters for a perfect example, ironically enough, in a match between Monfils and the aforementioned Mr. Roger Federer.
Both came into the fourth round playing quality tennis and that continued throughout what was an extremely entertaining evening of tennis at the Western and Southern Open. In the end, Federer was able to sneak out a hard fought three set win on the strength of being just a little bit better during those "crucial points". This isn't anything new. It happens each and every week on the ATP Tour. With that said, there is one major difference...the stage.
Anyone can sit here and make excuses but at the end of the day, it is all about winning and the performance we saw from Grigor Dimitrov with the spotlight of tennis world shining directly on him was both disappointing and underwhelming.